Someone asked me this week, “when things go back to normal, what church are you going to go to?” I felt guilty and ashamed that everything in me wanted to say “I don’t know if I will.” I felt this because I know what some people are probably thinking, “this is what we’ve been waiting for, Aaron’s let go of his faith”. When I say, “I don’t know if I will”, what I really wanted to say is, “You’re asking the wrong question”, but that felt rude. And to be honest, this question is probably something I would have asked if COVID-19 had happened a year ago when I was so immersed in one way of church life that I couldn’t see any other way – having been out of leading a church for three months. Having spent a lot of this time reading about church history, church structures, and the journey the western church has taken to arrive where we currently are. I have been inspired, and I have a deep longing to do life, faith and church a whole lot different.
I know that as humans, the majority of us are frightened and we repel from most change. But I sometimes think us Christians struggle with it on another level. I remember the uproar of moving the grand piano from one side of the stage to the other for a kids holiday program I was running. The Senior Pastor made the joke, “Aaron in the Baptist church you have to move it a cm a week, and by this time next year the people won’t have noticed it’s on the other side.” That’s a small glimpse of resisting a trivial change that really doesn’t matter. So any more significant changes within the way we do church, so steeped in tradition (some good and some negative) for centuries, will of course not be entertained easily by many.
But I just can’t bring myself go “back to normal”.
I don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. I don’t want to be so controlled by legalism to structure and processes that I lose the point of what it’s really all about. I’m over “playing church”, and being part of a structure that makes people feel they have to pretend to have it all together to belong. I’m done with a structure that tracks attendance to a Sunday Service as a reflection on the state of one’s heart rather than the fruit their life produces.
What I’ve heard in my limited conversations with people of faith recently, is that COVID-19 has stirred a longing for change within some people. We’ve had the opportunity to rethink and restructure, and it excites me that some have. But some pastors I’ve spoken with have said, “I can’t wait for services to go back to normal.” Because instead of taking this time to reevaluate and assess the health of the real community rather than attendance to a weekly event, many have taken the weekly event and made it an hour-long video where people watch disconnected on screens. Church should be about community and doing life with a diverse group of people – not something you “go” to. The church is not an event; it’s you and me. Don’t get me wrong – it’s essential to gather. But the church service should be about gathering together; celebrating Jesus and how we have seen Him growing, moving, shaping our everyday lives. It should be sharing communion and learning from each other. How can that be done effectively through something I watch alone?
I dream of a church not based around a suburb, location or building.
I dream of a church that goes beyond the human-made structures and traditions we’ve built but clings to the traditions God developed for us.
I dream of a church where people gather with others because they want to and they love each other, not because they found themselves in the same pews and pretend to like each other.
I dream of a church where those who belong are diverse, and there are no human-made barriers stopping people from coming right in.
I dream of a church that’s not centred around one Pastor/s, but instead is the priesthood of believers, owning this together.
I dream of a church that just because it’s done differently, doesn’t mean it’s weird, kooky or not done with excellence.
I dream of a church where we help each other move closer to Jesus and know Him better.
I dream of a church where people find freedom from shame, guilt, hopelessness, darkness and lifelessness.
I dream of a church where people bring the gold out in each other and champion the greatness and purpose in every individual.
I dream of a church who individually make a difference in their spheres, and together make a difference in their world.
If you know me, I don’t like to sit still. I’m a dreamer, a visionary, an entrepreneur, an innovator. But I need the body because too often these dreams stay in the dream phase. This time, I don’t want that to be the case. I feel there is too much at stake. Too many people who think they can’t be part of a church, because they don’t belong or have been forced out. Some people are tired of going through the motions of the way we do church but wouldn’t know where to start to bring change. Join me.
If you are stirred by this idea of brainstorming and developing a new way forward for the church. If you want to be part of something revolutionary. If you have been removed from the church or feel like you can’t belong but want to. If you have hope that we can do better – then PLEASE PRIVATE MESSAGE ME and let me know you are interested. I want to gather a group of people to start dreaming together all of the possibilities of how this thing could function and start. Please know this isn’t going to be based on a specific location, so if you are anywhere within Greater Melbourne (the city or the suburbs north, south, east or west), then you can be a part of this think tank. I have asked for private messages and not comments because I want to respect your privacy at this stage. I can only assume based on some conversations that some who are still in the traditional church would be nervous at this stage to say they want to be a part of this publicly.
Now I know some people out there will be annoyed that I’m doing this. They will think I’ve disqualified myself from pulling together a community in this nature. They will see this as something working against them and their attendance figures, somewhat of a threat. But in the words of Elphaba:
“I’m through accepting limits.
‘Cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love, I guess I’ve lost
Well if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost
I’d sooner buy defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye; I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!” – Elphaba (Wicked)