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What Should Churches Be About?

August 4, 2012

In recent weeks, I’ve been largely focused on writing a book about stages and issues in spiritual development.  Thus, less blog posts lately.  The book  necessarily deals with issues of our “big picture” of reality… our worldviews and theological systems which form and inform each other in both directions.  I happen to think we:

1. Don’t give these big-picture questions enough thought and reflection, and

2. When we do, our thinking is typically restricted (and thus confusing to ourselves) by the rigidity and distorting nature of the main paradigms that drive our religions and general culture. 

Sometimes I question whether my efforts will help many people because I know the times most people DO actually reflect on these issues are after a tragedy, a loss, or at times of transition when some issue or other has caused tension within a person or between them and friends or leaders in a church (or other group) they may attend.  But then again, I realize, at least one of those things happens fairly often for most of us.

This, in turn, causes me to reflect on what churches should be about.  If not “should,” then what do we really want them to be about? Of course, many volumes have been written about this question and I have no intention of getting into all the possible issues. 

In order to keep this article short, I’ll focus on mainly three ideas:

1. That it is actually very important to give some deliberate thought, some reading, conversation, etc. to your big-picture view of reality.  This necessarily involves the existence and nature of God.  Whether religious, spiritual-but-not-religious, religious/spiritual and scientific, or something  else, this exploration can gain you some clarity you may have been seeking and it may help you either better settle into a faith community or perhaps seek a change to one operating within a “big picture” more like your own. 

2. That Evangelical churches tend to operate clearly from a supernaturalist paradigm but progressive churches (some among mainline denominations) are likely to be more confused about what paradigm they use to make sense of God, the Bible and spirituality.   

3. That whatever paradigm a community may favor (or more than one among community members), the core of Christian faith and what Jesus emphasized — the centrality of love in action — can be the community emphasis as well.

How much do you see and feel love and compassion expressed within your church? How much is it expressed outwardly toward the needy or the broader world? If you are dissatisfied, what actions are you taking about it, or contemplating?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristen permalink
    August 8, 2012 2:58 pm

    Greetings Howard. In reading your post I am reminded of how small and unimportant I feel in the church I attend. Because the congregation is enormous, and there are many different buildings and times to attend, even the events/gatherings are like going to the Del Mar Fair. My daughter loves it though, so we go. I have no friends their even though I have been fairly regular for about a year. A few faces I recognize but I have no idea of anyones names’. Strange that it hasn’t really bothered me, but like I said I mostly go for my daughters sake. I know that the church is active in raising funds for community needs, but I am not sure as to how individuals are being ‘loved’ on. I know that my heart has been aching to find a spiritual community that I feel more connected with, but putting my heart out there is scary as hell (like the play on words there?). Anyway, I like the post and am thankful for the motivation to find where I can get good love.

  2. August 8, 2012 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Kristen. I’m glad if you are a tiny bit (or more) emboldend toward a continued search for a loving spiritual community. For whatever support it is, I read about a lot of people who just can’t find a comfortable place that “works” for them — a good place to put their heart out there, as you say. I do think that the struggle with “paradigms” or theology that I write about here and fairly often is one of the issues making it difficult these days. All the best with your own pilgrimage, and finding what is good for your daughter as she matures as well.

  3. Joe Cobb permalink
    September 1, 2012 9:35 pm

    My view of the right Church experience is one where ALL people are accepted and nurtered as if they are of the same family, community, and world in a positive way. Agape, unconditional love, prevails.

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