Raising the Church from the Dead, part 2

This weekend my church family moved into a new, permanent location. It’s the first permanent home we’ve had in nearly five years. We’re very excited about it. We didn’t move into this space in order to save the church. In fact, we sold our old permanent space—the place that had been the church home for over 50 years, in order to save the church. The church isn’t a building, or a dogma or creed. The church is people, in all their diversity. Paul said there are many gifts given from the One Spirit of God, and that all these gifts should be celebrated in church. Unfortunately, over the years church has become a place not to celebrate God’s diverse array of gifts, but instead a place to beat people into submission to a particular set of beliefs. Church is no longer about faith. It’s about belief, and the two ideas are incompatible. The church of belief must die so the church of faith can be resurrected. 
We the people are the church, just like those early followers of Jesus—the people of The Way. They came from all walks of life. Rich, poor, free, slave, male, female, Gentile and Jew, they created an alternate society that lived within yet never of the Roman Empire. They shared their resources. They told stories about Jesus and believed him, rather than believing in him. There is a distinct and important difference. Believing Jesus changes the world. Believing in him causes Crusades and Inquisitions.

The early churches were all over the map with regard to worship styles. They, like we, argued about the divinity of Jesus. Nothing was set in stone, and no idea was heretical. Spiritual growth and connectedness to God—discipleship, comes not from dogma and creed, but from open conversation and intense willingness to let Spirit guide us. The Christian Church of the 21st Century, much like the Jewish Synagogue of the 1st Century, is being reborn as a church of Spirit rather than a church of human hierarchy.

Our purpose in coming together as church should not be to recreate the past, nor should we attempt to find some magic church formula that will attract Millennials and other people who think church is useless or anachronistic in the 21st Century. For FCC Naples, which is reimaging and reimagining itself as The Current, we’re not interested in saving our church. We’ve realized that our church has died and been resurrected numerous times throughout its 55 year history.

We come together because as church we join with other people on a spiritual journey. In church we find a diverse people who have struggled throughout their lives to explain the deep connection they feel to the universe and everything in it. We are disciples.

We form church because we want to serve our community, to feed the hungry, to find ways to shelter the homeless, to try to influence the government to treat people fairly and justly, no matter their skin color, sexual preference or gender identification. We understand that our faith influences our politics, and we’re not afraid to embrace the radical, communal politics of Jesus—politics that got him killed.

We are church because in Jesus we have found an example of Oneness with God that gives us the courage to speak out against the unjust systems of humankind.
We form church because we are awakening and want to share our experiences with others who are awakening from the dead slumber of numbing, corporate mindlessness. We are becoming mindful of our actions and their consequences for the entire world. We are becoming mindful of God’s activity in our lives. We are becoming mindful of our power to change everything, and the mainline, dogmatic, creedal, corporate, complicit church hates mindfulness today as much as they did in Jesus’ time.

We may not be ascended, but we hope, and yes, we pray with passion for compassion. We are beginning to understand that our entire species is evolving spiritually—ascending as God raises us all from dead belief to living faith.

The new spirituality (which is really an ancient spirituality) is redefining church and filling it with people who have had personal, inexplicable experiences with something more, something Christians call “the risen Christ,” but something which goes by other names in other faith systems. All of them point to intense and intensely personal relationships with God.

We are waking up, and it is causing us to search for deeper religious experiences. These experiences might still happen in places we call church, but these spaces likely have little or no similarity to the “church” of the last two centuries, in look or feel. In my opinion, that’s very exciting and compelling. The “new” church is about a community of diverse people searching for a very real connection to God. This communal group is compelled by faith and the example of Jesus to serve a world being trampled into submission by a power every bit as merciless as the Roman Empire.

God’s new day is dawning. The church is dead. Long live the church!

Meditation: Lift me to a higher state of being.

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