I’ve been accused of being too critical of something that I supposedly love: my faith and the church. My single point is that there is quite a bit about both that I’ve come to realize that I have to shed if I am to grow. I don’t know if this makes sense, but there were some tenets of Christianity (as had been taught and passed down to me) that had grown to become constraints around me and my walk rather than aids or guides.

Part of it is the love hate relationship that I have with the church. At its worst, the church has sometimes been a place of guilt, crushing, judgment, and fakeness. Our model has been little more than that of a (self-)sanctified country club, more worried about keeping the “wrong types” out, than welcoming all types in. A country club filled with the “Born Agains” who, like it or not, are seen as judgmental, arrogant, narrow-minded, and bigoted religious fanatics. People who forget that people who speak against sin are the ones most in danger of feeling superior to those whose sin they rail against. People who forget that we’re all in the same sin boat.

It’s been my experience that people generally don’t mind Christ or His teachings, it’s the Christians–those who act in His name–that they have problems with. Maybe the protest/in your face model of church activism doesn’t put our best foot forward. Nor does sitting through someone coming to “holler at you for an hour.”

Maybe we shouldn’t have modeled the church after the modern day corporation to where the ABCs of church reality became Audience, Buildings, and Cash.

The biggest culprits (or by-product, I’m not sure which came first anymore) is that spirituality became about being about “me.” We go to church with a consumer mentality: we seek out churches based on who has the best show, where you don’t have to do anything and, heaven forfend, you don’t have to reveal anything. You can just sit and be “fed.”

Whether we realize it or not, many of us have developed very individualized faiths. Sitting in pews, soaking up knowledge, and feeling holy for what we’ve learned; like little sanctimonious pew potatoes. Church had become a collection of individuals: we each had our own Bibles, did our own quiet times, and we had our isolated worship, even when assembled, as we closed our eyes and experienced God … just us and Him.

Then I come to realize that the church is me, except in macrocosm.

Now, I’ve also come to realize that once you’ve deconstructed a lot of the ways things have been done, you have to start (re-)building something. I firmly believe that at its best, church can be a place of hope, healing, belonging and redemption. The question becomes “how do we get there?” It’s tough switching from a mindset of being to a mindset of doing, so why don’t we start at the beginning: what is church?

Church is a communal expression of faith. Sometimes we get so caught up in the rituals and routines that we lose sight of the fact that they have a point: to form us into the kind of people God wants us to be; to be part of the solution, not the problem. Where a bunch of ordinary nobodies, men and women living and caught up in a story (the story of Creation that had fallen apart). Whose mandate should include building a sense of community, loving each other, and serving the world, all in the name of Christ.

It shouldn’t be as hard as we often make it.

It’s about switching from a club mentality to a mission mentality, a mission of existing for the sake of serving our neighbors.

We are all caught up in empty ways of doing life to one degree or another. Going through the daily grind, going through the motions, un-engaged and missing the point of life. However, even in the ordinary of our lives, God can be found. We can realize that all of Creation, all of life, is sacred. That spiritual living isn’t something just done on Sundays and that everything else–from going to a baseball game to going to a party–is somehow non-spiritual. We can learn what it means to live as we were created to be, fully human, as we engage with the world around us.

We can learn to not be our own worst enemy. To not be a place that beats people up before they can be accepted or have people shun it because they think that to follow Christ means dropping the “fun” things about life in the name of “spirituality”. But rather to be a place of acceptance and community.

A good vision provides excitement, focus, commitment, and meaning while firing up the imagination. To exist to help people resist empty ways of life by becoming fully human in the way of Jesus. To be a Refuge or Sanctuary, a place of rest and freedom to be yourself, where we connect with God and one another by joining in Jesus’ mission to bless the world.

Doesn’t sound too hard. Does it?