Tag Archives: institutional church

Horizontal prayers

It’s the beginning or end of a sermon. The lights are low, the crowd is still. The preacher tells everyone to bow their heads and pray with him. Silence falls on the room. And then…

The preacher starts addressing the crowd in a hushed tone that sounds like a prayer with the notable exception that it is wholly directed at the audience, not God.

You’ve been there right? Surely I’m not the only one. When the preacher or other dually appointed representative takes what is supposed to be a time where we corporately communicate with the Living God as a time to, instead, offer either a miniature sermon or (slightly better) a chance to summarize the main points from their sermon you just sat through.

Perhaps I am growing more ornery as I age (both spiritually and physically) but I’ve decided that if the preacher wishes to address me I will keep my head erect and eyes open until they decide to get around to their actual prayer to God.

As for preachers and anyone else who is guilty of this I wish to implore you; Please refrain from offering horizontal prayers. Let’s cut down on the confusion (and potentially awkward moments if someone like me is in your midst) and keep our prayers vertical.

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Doing Church

One of the more interesting questions my wife and I get these days is “so, where do you go to church?”. This question is especially interesting when the person asking knows the depth of commitment we have to Christ and many expect the pat answer of “we attend such and such Baptist or Presbyterian” or, at the very least, “we are still ‘shopping'”1

Instead, our answer is that we attend a simple church2 which meets in the homes of the various participants. Since many people are unfamiliar with any ecclesiology outside  of one which confuses a building with an organization and programs with the church, the response we often get is probably the same as if we were to say that we participated in some bizarre cult3.

The truth, however, is that we’ve been meeting with a group of around 15-20 other believers for the past few months and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Even though our children often pose a difficulty in terms of logistics, we’ve found the common fears and objections most often raised against house churches to be completely vacant, at least in the one we are currently blessed to be a part of.

I suppose if these people were to overcome their initial shock, and I’m sure many who have known us in the past would like to know, they would ask the obvious follow-up question of “what’s wrong with a normal church?” with the obvious implication that we had somehow left the church.

To be fair, we have had some bad experiences with churches in the past. And to be honest, these experiences have made it very difficult for me (in particular) to be comfortable with the idea of attending any church, institutional or otherwise, ever again.

For the longest time I thought the problem lie with me, especially since it was my questions and quest for honest community and answers that ended up driving large, immovable, and painful wedges4 between us and people we had known and loved for years.

Then, as if by a miracle, I met a series of people who shared with me their similar (and often times much worse) experiences and showed me their battle scars. They let me know that I am not alone5. Lest you think they were merely bitter and resentful I hasten to add that it was through their love and friendship I also learned the true definition of community and family.

It was actually one of these dear brothers (a youth minister, no less) who suggested that I read Pagan Christianity, an blistering expose of the pagan practices that have crept into Christianity throughout the years and the profound impact they have had. Undoubtedly it was this book that helped me decide to, along with my loving (and trusting) family, but it wasn’t the only thing that helped me make this decision to, at least for the time being, leave the institutional church. Much of Francis Schaeffer‘s work, especially what I’ve read about L’Abri, along with his son-in-law and current L’Abri president Udo Middleman’s book “The Market Driven Church”, along with a host of simple inconstancies such as the abject disdain I’ve experienced from many churches when it comes to thoughtful and rigorous discussion and study6

So, we are “doing church” differently now.

We’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t need the elaborate buildings and religious trappings to grow close to Christ and His bride (which is the true Church). We’re not encouraging a mass exodus from the institutional churches many people are still members of but we also don’t think such a mass exodus would be such a bad thing either.

  1. How this phrase ever came about I’ll never know. []
  2. Also known as house church, micro church, etc. []
  3. Unlike the commonly accepted cults like the Jehoviah’s Witnesses and Mormons []
  4. Many which I still feel the stinging pain of today []
  5. And judging from the number of people who are leaving churches all across our land I am inclined to point out that my experience and conclusions are far from unique. In fact, it seems that the old mantra “Jesus, yes; the church, no” is coming back in vogue for another season. []
  6. Though most churches ironically encourage their members to read their Bibles, most sadly don’t actually intend for their members to actually comprehend and grow from what they read. []
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