recently, my wife and a friend started talking and dreaming about a home church (jeannie likes to call it a spiritual community), something contemplative and honest and exploratory and intimate. a few weeks ago, 10 of us met for the first time. i don’t know 6 of the other people yet at all; and, though we had dinner together, i ended up sitting at a different part of the table, and didn’t get to know them. so it’s still a strange thing. and none of us have actually committed to it yet, because we haven’t really defined what it is yet.
this past saturday, they group met to start listening to each others dreams and desires about what a group like this. i wasn’t able to join them. so i wrote up my thoughts, a modified form of which i’ll share here…
a little backstory: i have developed a love/hate relationship with evangelicalism. i love my roots, i love the commitment to people, iI love the commitment to praxis, i love the commitment to fresh forms, and the passion for jesus. and i still hold to most of the central tenants of classical evangelicalism. however, i hate what pop-evangelicalism has become – a circle-the-wagons exclusive group more interested in defining who’s in and out than in engaging culture and loving the world with the love of jesus. i am sometimes repulsed by the black-and-whiteness of calcifying evangelical theology and the complete removal of mystery from worship and the life of the believer (of course, these are overstatements, and wonderful exceptions can be found all over the place).
my desires: i long for a place of contemplative, communal worship, of honesty about questions and doubts (a place where questions and doubts are seen as more valuable to a spiritual journey than answers and resolve), and a place where all voices are welcome. and, to be honest, i want a place that is not dominated by people like me: males, specifically, as well as strong leader types with quick opinions and strong vision. i want a spiritual community that compliments, or brings some necessary balance to my normal proclivities: a community that values slow, that values the voices of women, that doesn’t have a master plan. oh, and i’d really love a place where it makes sense to worship alongside my children, rather than having them farmed-out to a chuck e. church.
my concerns: i have two concerns that have been percolating. first, i’m concerned that the tiny dream (maybe more accurately, a tiny longing) that was birthed in the hearts of my wife and her friend, and later including a third friend, could easily get steamrolled by people with louder voices, prior discussions about their communal longing, prior relationships, and stronger opinions. part of what so attracts me to this group is the opportunity to follow my wife, to allow for an inverted space where her voice is truly equal or more heard than mine. i am not saying that i want my wife and her friends to be our “pastors” or “leaders” or “elders”. but i do hope for a bit of a matriarchy where their initial leaning to begin this group is patiently, humbly, and quietly listened to.
second, i’m concerned about a pre-set approach to what this group or home church is, even from people embracing a contemplative approach. as much as i thought the list of descriptors one person suggested sounded like a church I would love to attend, it also put up red flags for me, because it was so close to being a system, a pre-designated road map for this group, rather than something that evolved out of the collective voice of the community.
let me put this a different way. deconstructionist philosophers talk about truth being an event. even more specifically, they say truth is a “communal event.” this is in opposition to the idea that truth is external, rationalized and static. in other words, truth is what arises from the collective voice of a community. and they use the word “event” to lock it to time and space, rather than absolute and external. the implications of this are:
in the same way, emerging church leaders are talking about theology (and even orthodoxy) as a community event. this really describes what i long for in this group: a community where praxis (theology and practice together) will arise from our individual and collective discernment, not from a static, external source. i’d love that list of the things we saw, but would want to be careful that anything like that would inform our dialogue, not define our dialogue, or us.
(by the way: for anyone having a heart attack over my comment pushing away from truth being found in a static, external source… remember: the bible is not a static, external source. it’s the living word of god.)