Help! I can’t go back to “normal” church.

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Eight years ago, we started running “Breakfast Church” from our home. It was kind of a simple church/organic/missional community thing. 5 couples, two kids, a few singles, gathering together to have breakfast, share our lives and talk “God stuff”. We all loved it. It was deep, and meaningful, and the accountability and intensity challenged us and helped us grow. A few years in, it turned into “Baby Club” as five babies were born, and it ended up logistically difficult to host the chaos at anyone’s house. We all stayed relationally close and connected, but drifted back into mainstream churches on Sunday mornings.

The other day, one of the guys commented that it had taken him years to get back into “regular church”. It made me realise that all of that group are now a bit jaded and cynical about the format of institutional church services. Sitting in rows and listening passively to sermons, week after week after week, makes no sense anymore. It feels bizarre and wrong to never have the opportunity to contribute, to respond or to be actively involved in ministering to one another during the central gathering of God’s people.

Have we done the wrong thing? Have we “spoiled” these people for the normal way of doing church?


48 thoughts on “Help! I can’t go back to “normal” church.

  1. Yes Kathleen, you have ruined them forever… in a good sort of way. It’s like a line from a good mystery movie, “They know too much!” You and your friends “know too much” to simply sit passively and become takers. They have learned the value of doing life together in community and knowing one other at a deeper and more meaningful level than a courteous “Hello” and “See you next week” kind of way. They have learned that bigger is not necessarily better and that being anonymous is only good if you need to hide from something. So I suppose you have “spoiled” them but don’t feel guilty about it, just do it all over again… that’s called making disciples. Kudos and Cheers to you.

    • “being anonymous is good, only if you need to hide something.”

      I loved that sentence πŸ™‚ and yet it’s so sad.

      In the last ‘church’ as business we were apart of…. I hear stories constantly from friends that still go there…of marriages in shambles because of years of hiding…..many of the people were even part of the ‘leadership’ or at least very involved, on the ‘worship team’ etc….. it makes me wonder if our ability to hide in our churches really is a major major major factor in the lack of maturity in the Church, in the immoral lifestyles & choices we see.. in so many of the problems. Can’t it all be traced back to not having close, true, open participatory honest gatherings? My friends in those settings I know they are doing their best to share life together & be real….. but it’s like they are fighting the giant they themselves are building….there’s way too much distraction… time spent on performance… so much that must “go on”…..

      I earnestly believe if these people whose marriages are falling apart… or being lead away from the Truth…. were in intimate church settings, at the very LEAST the truth would have come out way earlier and would be able to be confronted before it was so late and basically beyond repair apart from miracles. Not even to mention how we can’t truly really grow without practicing our love muscle & participating in corporate life……

      anyway, gotta run. again just rambling πŸ™‚

    • I don’t feel too guilty about letting them see a bigger picture of church life, Jimmy – but I do feel bad that there aren’t more spaces where organic and institutional church combine to provide “the best of both worlds”, as it were. Not sure how it would work in practice, but I’d love to see more creative attempts at bringing it about.

      Cheers, Kathleen

      • I was having lunch with a local pastor a few days ago and we were talking about this very thing. He said, “It seems like many are talking as if it has to be Missional or Attractional, I think it should be both. Not either/or but both/and.” I absolutely agree. Granted, we need new forms, new wineskins as it were, but if more pastors could see the value in both and incorporate platforms for various expressions I think we would see a complimentary dynamic happen and ultimately more people reached and connected in community.

  2. I think about that too. I wish sometimes I could just be “normal” – but that’s resenting the Holy Spirit in us, isn’t it?

    I too am stuck in the tension. Ss soon as my eyes were opened at what could be…. and what wasn’t…..I felt that stuckness and I imagine I always will. This is part of the suffering we must bear…for now. Accepting the lack of perfection of everything – accepting we will only get glimmers – accepting nothing will ever live up to expectations. But maybe that is just what the Lord is teaching me – to LET GO of all expectations and just be content. To know that I will always feel dissatisfied here – even though I do get small tastes & glimpses of satisfaction in Him.

    Every single time I feel like I might go try a Sunday service again…. I read something that very same day I’m considering it…. that reminds me what I see, what I believe, what could be, what exactly is the underlying messages going on. We can’t over spiritualize everything, true…. but once you know what you know, you can’t un-know it πŸ™‚ I haven’t found a good enough motive to ‘go back in’. The motives for going are wrong & not from Him, at this point.

    So instead, I wait patiently for the Lord to bring us into more and more relationships of Church and more experiences of sharing life with others in the Church…. with the purpose of edification. We aren’t there yet… I do wonder if the Lord will send me back in just to find others who desire to be freed from it….and are just needing somebody to reach out to them.

    Anyway, I’m just rambling. I’m with you!! πŸ™‚

    • I’m pretty sure God has plans for you as you sit with that tension. One day, you’ll look back and see what He’s done in and through you during this time.


      – Kathleen

      • Thank you!

        We have been away from the business/Sunday morning scene for almost 3 years now I think. At this point, we certainly don’t share life or experience ekklesia as *I* would desire…..but we do meet weekly with our small Church family (2 singles, 1 couple & our family of 5) – I wish it was more but the couple lives an hour away. And I do keep in touch with regularly and meet with sisters in Christ throughout my week. Maybe that is what the Lord is working out in me at this time though — to let go of my own expectations & timetables – and just receive what He IS giving me and continue to put myself out there and being intentional about gathering with brothers/sisters He has put in my life.

        I don’t imagine I will be able to spend my resources (time, money, energy, attention) on things/gatherings that I think distract or divert attention from the things God has shown us are true….. until I am living out those things that He has shown are true, somewhere. The priesthood of all believers – His ability to lead His Church – be the functioning head – the building up of His Church through open, participatory, mutually edifying relationships, gatherings.

        So I wait & continue to try to just open myself up to Him and what He will do.

  3. Sounds familiar to our story. We started something called Dinner and Discussion, which evolved into Church of the Common Table. Met in homes, was dialogical, ate every time we gathered, TONS of babies. It was a beautiful, beautiful 4 years.
    Now, we can’t go back. And, in our opinion, it is a good thing.

    • The Table is such a great focal point of this new way of doing church. I’m hearing of more and more gatherings which use the word “Table” in the name.

      Are you still meeting together? How many people? Has logistics become an issue with all those “tons of babies”?

      – Kathleen

  4. I had a very similar issue to contend with a few years back… and I actually saw some aspects as a failure of my service. I have no problem with breaking the faulty patterns of how church is done, but I had hoped to break the idea of ‘our way is right, yours is wrong’. With that in my mind I took some time to readdress some of those heart issues.
    Ultimately we have the ability to be and create church everywhere we go so if your new church doesn’t do that on a Sunday morning that’s okay… Sad, but okay, because you have the rest of the week to create and model an expression of church that does. All I need to create church is at least one other person… Coffee is preferred, but not (theologically) essential.

    • “Coffee is preferred, but not (theologically) essential”. I love it!

      I completely agree, Ellis – we can create “church” throughout the week – and I generally choose to, rather than wait for my local church to “get it.”

      Thanks for your thoughts,

      – Kathleen

  5. My question is: what is the purpose of Church? Not the Body of Christ; I get that. But what is the purpose for Sunday morning gatherings to hear one person speak? I hear so many people base it on the “don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together” Scripture. But, to me, believers who gather regularly in a home, a coffee shop, a garage, a tent – whatever, are “assembling together.” Others say it’s so the local Body of Christ can meet together to worship together. But, to me, believers who gather regularly in a home, a coffee shop, et cetera, et cetera…
    I, too, think those folks (and any of us who have tasted the same blessing of fellowship) are “spoiled.” And probably a God-thing, too!

    • I so agree with you, Katie.

      The reasons for gathering used to make more sense. In communities where people were closely connected and lived alongside each other, they didn’t need to prioritize interaction in their meetings. In a time where information was scarce, and you could only hear good explanations from a trained scholar/preacher, it made sense to set aside time for a weekly sermon. But those days are over. We now have access to information, podcasts and interpretation at our fingertips. Yet our communities are disconnected and need opportunities for fellowship and ministry to one another.

      The times have changed, but the structures are much slower to change.

      – Kathleen

  6. Our pastor recently did a sermon where he talked about becoming a genuine community, how it we shouldn’t just be a social club, that we need deeper relationships. I sat there wondering HOW? How do we get deeper? He spoke about getting together outside of church for meals, connecting to small groups, making the extra effort to love people in the church and see them outside of church. I felt so frustrated. Church is one of the few places I can dump my kids in creshe and sit in a room full of like minded adults and NOT get to know them. Why am I still doing this every week?

      • Why are you, Esther? I’m curious what your answer was to that question! Why are you still doing it every week!?

        I am a Mommy of a 6 3 and 1 year old. We left the Sunday morning performance / Church as a business scene about 2 years ago. We live in North Carolina, USA πŸ™‚

  7. Esther
    Why indeed? Best and most honest question Iv’e read in months.
    Iv’e heard this cry many times from many who are one short step away from immediately having the beginning of intimate church life, but they don’t because they are locked into an old paradigm. We’ve been trained like hamsters on a wheel to keep going around and expect that to somehow contribute to growth.
    Just keep attending.
    The secret to vibrant church life isn’t rooted in who we gather with, where, when or what we do. It’s why.
    Jesus life is locked up inside of us, in the fullness of the Godhead, and we’re complete in Him, but He can’t be released from our spirit until we answer the question of why we fellowship, even why we are Christians.
    Form follows function, and as Kathleen has relentlessly been saying, sitting in rows (form) works for those who want to count neck hairs on the back of the person in front of them as they passively allow their Pastor or Pope to vicariously mediate between God and man, and vica versa.
    In this almost universal scenario among Gods starving, crippled, beloved people, the ‘why’ to fellowship or go to church is clearly mindless, monotonous and ‘good enough’ tradition.
    But, if our ‘why’ to fellowship is to singularly have abundant, empowering and loving Spirit life shared with Jesus Christ and every person that loves Him in word and deed, then you can have it right away.
    And here’s how.
    Give away Jesus love that you have, rather than look for it to be given to you.
    Freely share what you have, (widows mite) with literally anyone and everyone who has need, emptying your hoarded resource vault of talents, wisdom, energy, skills, money, time, forgiveness et al. Start with the folks you meet with weekly by going down the long list of ‘one another’s’ in scripture, seeking who has needs, hurts, fears, loneliness etc. Be the tender, intuitive, sacrificial servant you want to find in that elusive ‘organic church’ we all read about and never find.
    Keep doing this until God opens others hardened hearts and they cant help themselves but to copy your example of ‘one anothering’.
    Trust God, that His Spirit, released from our spirit, is as infectious as the Bubonic Plague, but with far more life changing potential.
    All that’s needed for His life to be unlocked is for our life to be locked up in His will and purpose.
    And His will is to glorify our Father, seeking first His kingdom, righteousness and pleasure.
    That’s the only ‘why’ that matters.
    I promise you, within a few weeks or months, you will have a (probably small) group of like minded saints who have changed their reason for going to church from tradition to an insatiable desire to see Christ formed within others, at any cost. This will cause clashes and lots of trouble as you challenge old ways and old minds, but if you’ve adjusted your compass toward His purpose for church, you will prevail.
    You might die in the process of course, because there never seems to be a shortage of folks willing to kill us, as a favor to God, but hey, we’re gonna die anyway.
    This is a description of that narrow way Jesus spoke of.
    It also corresponds to the theme in scripture of a small remnant obtaining the promise.
    So…. how badly do we want real church life, the kind that blows the doors off the devils lair, and releases the millions of captives that await our attack to free them?

  8. Living life closely with people is massively important and it sounds like breakfast church was a delicious taste of both food (I love breakfast!) and real community for the folks you had in your home.

    I also love church. I love all of her, the institution, the structure (per the bible), and her massive role in God’s cosmic plan of redemption for His glory. I think it’s important not to knock the institution for problems that come from the fact it is made up of broken sinful people that want to hide. Church is set up for people to grow in, but they have to take some active role in that process. They have to go to community groups, they have to pursue relationships where they can confess sin, find accountability, and have people preach the gospel to them. This is absolutely can happen in normal church. Passivity in normal church is not normal church’s fault.

    Passivity in in the pews is not something that is intrinsic to sitting in pews. I think the practice of the sermon is pretty biblical. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and bunch of other pretty important people all gave sermons and placed sermons in the DNA of church from the very beginning. Hearing the Word of God preached can and should be an active thing. It’s a way to interact with what God has said in His word, to hear some call us to what it says and respond to it for our joy. I don’t think just hearing the sermon is the end of the picture – group life is crucial for hashing out what was preached and how it hit us and how we are dealing with it.

    Those are just some thoughts. I think the problem of passivity in church should not be pinned on the church. This great post should be a call to people to strive to build and be a part of the beautiful, delicious community that you had at your breakfast church as a part of normal church.

    • Thanks Josh. You are right to remind me not to condemn God’s church harshly.

      Throughout this blog, I try to raise questions about the way we do church, and what I say can tend towards cynicism / criticism of the modern church. I do consciously try to err on the side of critiquing the system, rather than the people. While I agree there is biblical precedent for monologue teaching (what we now call “sermons”), many scholars would agree the early church gatherings did not resemble our current format for church (sit quietly, sing songs, listen to a sermon, chat over morning tea and then go home). I am willing to go out on a limb and question this virtually universal approach to “church”, and suggest a “re-think”.

      I think some churches are doing a great job of balancing monologue teaching with “beautiful, delicious community” building, and I am thankful for them. Some preachers do a fantastic job of creating an environment for active learning. Like you, I don’t want to see the end of “sermons” – just a balance towards developing and building “group life” as well.

      – Kathleen

  9. After reading through the new testament, I have a hard time figuring out how we continue to have a weird fixation/emphasis on the gathering of believers in the form of ‘Sunday church’. Why is the gathering important? It is important because God has gifted and speaks through His children to encourage and minister to one another. Why is that important? We have been called to go and make disciples teaching them to OBEY Christ’s commands. I find this very difficult on my own. Gathering with other believers where there is mutual participation has been an awakening for me. An awakening to God’s plan that each of His children have been designed to be used to advance His Kingdom. For me, I found that ‘Sunday church’ was actually a detriment to being obedient to Christ. Is ‘Sunday church’ to blame? No, ultimately I am responsible for my choices, however I find nothing biblically wrong with leaving that form in order to find more effective ways to be obedient to Christ.

  10. Corporate worship is only a part of being a follower of Christ. People in small groups often have an epiphany of sorts, realizing that there’s more than Sunday church. “Where has this been all my life??” It’s fun and exciting. But even most of those here (commenting) have come from Sunday Church looking for “more” when they found the table. They weren’t birthed into the body of Christ at the table, but usually via a Sunday church’s ministry or people. Both are important. What I’ve witnessed is people get fired up around the table… but babies are born so they need someone to watch then teach the kids… and more room for the kids… and the gathering grows so they need more space – and sitting around the table isn’t working so they move to the living room… and boom, another Sunday church is born, complete with a sound system in a big room with a nursery/children’s area off to the side. How about being a church that does both all the time? Big on the weekend, small during the week…

  11. This is interesting. I’ve experienced the same thing on a couple levels. First, that we feel like it’d be difficult to ever go back to Sunday business-as-usual. Second, that having more than a few kids in your community pokes all kinds of holes in your starry-eyed ideals of community, “doing life” together, simple/missional church etc. We’re still very committed to that stuff, but WOW it’s tougher than I thought when I was single or newly married. Ironically, it does often leave us with a desire to have the rhythms, diversity, and CHILDCARE of a larger community. Catch-22…

    • Love your comments, Mark – especially the word CHILDCARE in capitals. “Starry-eyed ideals of community” do change with multiple babies in the room. I had a quick look at your blog/web page. It sounds awesome. My husband is originally from Co Tyrone.

      Blessings to you and Ange in your ministry.

      – Kathleen

  12. One theme I keep running across, in multiple blogs, tweets etc, is the idea of waiting for the Lord to bring us back to life, or possibly birth an organic church near us or? While that may be the legitimate case for some, I want to encourage everyone who finds themselves in the wilderness, or in a messy situation, to consider the following possible reasons for why we are not getting out, or getting out quicker and moving into abundant life. This is very broad and sweeping, but I’m mentioning it because I have rarely read anyone do so.
    I think it adds balance, but you be the judge.
    1. We receive not because we ask not.
    2. Our faith is weak through unbelief
    3. We don’t prevail in prayer like the woman with the unjust judge
    4. We ask amiss
    5. We’re angry and/or unforgiving
    6. We seek our own glory (teacher, leader etc)
    7. Double minded
    8. Our affections are worldly
    9. Idolatry
    10. We haven’t sold all to follow Him

    Each of these are motives and impediments that we worked through as a fellowship over 30 years. And we were eager pioneers to begin with, having left all to follow Him, being ostracized by the larger Christian community for not aligning ourselves with any one creed, denomination or affiliation.
    And of course we added insult to injury for allowing women, as well as men to be ‘leaders’, home-schooling (starting in the mid 70’s), daring to speak publicly about the various social trends toward darkness in the community, and being sought out by many needy folks who other (jealous) churches were ‘ministering’ to without progress. We suffered greatly at the hands of well intention-ed Christian minister and a few bible colleges.
    All that to say that notwithstanding our zeal and single mindedness, the Lord took us through the wringer of cleansing, repentance, persecution, loss, forgiveness and restoration, albeit partial till now.
    And through all of it, He was a comfort and healing balm, a friend and lover of our souls.
    We must go through these things, in order to enter the kingdom.
    The rebirth of the church will not happen without going through death to our old ways, means and motives, and He insists on being the one to choose who we will go through it with.
    I can tell you with good authority that He has a sense of humor and will likely pick exactly the one(s) you would have not picked, to become a close brother or sister in the journey. It might be wise to re calibrate your expectations of achieving any kind of practical unity and Marine like brotherhood to a decade.
    It will be a surprise bonus if it’s less than that, and if its longer, well then you will have had 10 yrs to get used to being chipped off, humbled and healed.
    We must go through trials together, which has been the one thing we have stubbornly refused to do, cleverly crafting an impressive array of tricky work-a-rounds to God’s furnace, in church styles, programs and creeds
    We’ve believed our own false prophets, who told us that we’re strong, noble and good stewards, meanwhile denying the evidence that we don’t even have the collective maturity of a nursery school.
    All the little trifles that separate us into different camps were sent by God, to test and perfect us, and instead of seeing past them and seeing our difficult brethren as staffs to lean upon, we see them as rocks in the path, skirting around them.
    This self destructive and kingdom eroding attitude is exactly what God is pointing His finger at with all of us at this time in church history.
    The mass exodus is, like Israels exodus, only the beginning.
    We still have to get through the desert, over the Jordan and kill the giants before we can enjoy the promise of abundant life.
    The ‘one another’s’ in scripture are given as guidance for us to use these human foibles that we are easily offended at, as opportunities to stick it out with each other, and even seek out the wounded, offended, lame, halt and blind.
    The most difficult among us are often the most gifted, and the most compassionate among us are often the most phlegmatic.
    There’s a practical reason Paul said for the ‘weakest’ among us to be judges of disputes. We should strive to be weak, dependent and trusting, vulnerable and pliable, available to be burned out in service to ungrateful brethren.
    And that’s where the Apostles and Prophets come in, being matured from among us as we corporately mature, sticking with each other when wed’e rather murder each other. But that’s another story.
    Scripture says that even Jesus himself learned obedience by the things he suffered, and the servants are not above the Lord.
    God uses boredom, loneliness, confusion, fear and tears to impel us to our knees, and to accept the fellowship of even a despised ‘Calvinist’ or ‘Arminian’ etc.
    Scripture is chock full of examples of saints facing the same type of long dragged out bondage or malaise that we wilderness wanderers seem to expect, but by one or two refusing to accept mediocrity or the status quo, and tearing the heavens apart to remind God of His promised mercy and blessing, they obtained their sought for deliverance or goal.
    We’re waiting for God, but it may be that He’s waiting for us.
    Sorry if that was a rambling diatribe, but I’m a bit hurried, shooting from the hip.
    blessings beloved.

    • Wow Greg, I’ll have to consider this more. But this is exactly opposite of what I have believed the Lord was doing in me and asking of me.

      Correct me if I’m wrong – but I hear you saying that abundant church life is available NOW and if you don’t have it, you’re doing something wrong.

      Yet all I continue to hear is to wait. Be patient. Be still. Let go of your timetable, let go of your expectations & formulas and thinking that Church life is dependent on you, your planning, your trying.

      I think of all the other things God has to do to bring people into my life where they are at a place to desire what we desire in Church… and I believe that He is asking of me – patience.

      Perhaps it’s my personality weakness and others don’t have this —- but I do error on impulsiveness & impatience – so perhaps that’s why I’m exactly where I am.

      And the truth is – I’m also a personality with high expectations – an achiever. So perhaps the Lord wants me to realize that what I am apart of now and what I have with my small Church family is something I would never have gotten in the institution —- so I should be thankful for these small steps – even if it’s not good enough for ME yet.

      Who am I to judge if it’s good enough!!??! and what abundance should look like for me right now?

      This is God’s work to build His Church. I earnestly seek Him and open my heart to what He is desiring to do in me and through me. I keep my heart open to those He enters into my life…. but I am also aware of my weaknesses in personality – and I will not force people into something they aren’t ready for. I will wait patiently and allow them to open up their lives & hearts to me in their time.

      In our rush for abundant life (we can even start to be selfish in our desire for Church life) – we could run all over people and totally mess up what the Lord is doing in their life to prepare them for deeper Church relationships.

      Since the Church is the people. And relationships with people takes such time. We have to expect that it’s going to take SO much more time than we would desire.

      Perhaps some day God will just bring us into abundant church life on earth over night and just BAM it will happen like that. But I haven’t experienced that. Everything is painfully slow.

      We must be patient!

      • Randi. I think you’ve got it. In despising small things, and seeking great things, the church has gained neither intimacy nor growth.
        Abundant life is the natural outcome of an intimate relationship between Gods people, when we don’t dictate the terms or set an agenda. We could have abundant life in a mega church if no one changed the family rules about headship. Many families, biological and Gods, enjoy unity and love, and then go and ruin a good thing by franchising it for mass reproduction. One chief weakness that has enabled that has been the local pastors ambitions to see growth, but in Acts it was Apostles that facilitated expansion. The presumption of the church at large toward growth without those vital gifts has weakened us and caused us to grow fat and dull of hearing rather than grace and love. So yes we should wait for mega growth but no we shouldn’t wait to obey today what is within our power to do. And we have no idea how deep and rich our everyday lives can become if we put our energy, time, money & passion into one anothering those in need immediately near us. Leaders today stand at a distance, bidding us follow them to build earthly temples, deceiving us from obedience to seek His kingdom 1st, which is a city whose builder is God, whose stones are desperately lonely and needy flesh and blood brethren next to us.
        We can’t see the forest for the trees because we trust in men and not God. Blessings Greg

        • Greg – We shouldn’t wait to obey what we CAN do right around us – YES! Here is to taking small small steps to obey right where we are. <3 Thanks for clarifying. We are in agreement.

          I just finished Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola. WOW. pretty incredible. I have had it sitting on my dresser for years – so glad I finally read it. Very confirming to what the Lord has shown me and done in my family these past 3 years. I didn't want to pick up that book because I really didn't want to be swayed in my decision through a book – but through my own study this time.

          • Randi
            I suspect you would benefit from Franks new book “Gods favorite place on earth”, as I understand it moves you onward from the positional dilemma the church is in, that he outlines in Pagan Christianity, to the relational possibilities available to a church starved for intimacy. I have to confess I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve talked with Frank a few times when I was his Canadian book distributor back in 2006, and his passion is to facilitate healthy relationships in the body of Christ. Id bet money (cuz my last name is Gamble) that your vision of God’s eternal purpose will be enlarged, and your imagination fired up to see new possibilities for fellowship you may not have seen before. I say this because belief and unbelief are functions of our imagination as much as our affections, and if we can imagine new vista’s we might seek them, and if we seek, we will find.

        • YES GREG I just finished God’s Favorite Place on Earth and it just fueled so much the vision God had planted in my heart about His Church, His beautiful bride, body, family, home. It was my favorite of viola’s books that I’ve read and so very impactful. I highly highly recommend. It so beautifully stirred my affections for the Lord Jesus!

          • Terrific! Well done!
            Well, then, if you liked that, let me suggest another booklet you may not know of. I read it when I was just converted at 17, and it planted a sobering but lofty vision in my spirit for life, and has helped me to keep the main thing, the main thing.
            Philip Mauro: Last call to the Godly remnant.
            Its the message of Haggai, calling Gods people to turn their theology into action, quit wasting time on their own houses and go up the mountain together to get wood in order to build His house. Its not a hidden message, like some of Jesus parables and I was smitten with determination and purpose from that day till now. It was written for the Jews, but its also a natural picture of us, as both them and us are at the same place on the trajectory of Gods plan, in our respective testaments.
            I think that place is just prior to God breaking a small remnant of His people out of bondage, from complacency, fear, idolatry and enslavement to men.
            Historically, only a few see Him coming, sadly for Him and us.
            After 40 years, just writing this, the hair on my arms is standing up and my heart is pumping faster as I see and sense Him moving in ever closer to his beloved children, to deliver them, and bring us closer to our wedding day. As a husband and father of four, I have a fiercely purposeful attitude toward caring for them and making them happy, and I think I feel a tiny bit of what our Father must feel as He’s been waiting millenniums for those final adrenaline filled days of crazy preparation for the marriage of His Son to us, His bride/wife.
            You might find it in a bookstore but if not, its probably available online at

          • Greg – Thank you! I added it to my wishlist on amazon. Your last paragraph was so beautiful and that is my heart, too!! I am with you! I guess for thousands of years, His people have been excited with that anticipation and feel His return coming any day —- but I do know this – we are one day closer today!!! I can’t wait to see Him face to face, see Him on the throne – see His face as He is getting all the praise He adores. See His eyes as His heart is satisfied with His Bride and He acknowledges – it was all worth it!!! ohhhh I am so excited for HIM! much less myself. Praise Jesus!!!! πŸ™‚

  13. There is a common theme emerging in these comments which is close to my heart. I hear Jimmy, Esther, Josh, Tim and Mark Guinn all calling for a balance in the church – where we can experience the conveniences of institution (and, lets face it, childcare) as well as community. This is something I long to see creatively addressed in churches. Businesses, Universities and schools are all wrestling with how to empower employees and students to make the most of their time together, working collaboratively. I’m quite sure there are ways we can meet together which empower God’s people to connect, learn and grow, even when we meet as a larger body of believers.

    – Kathleen

  14. So Kathleen, pardon my ignorance of institutional culture, but are you saying that you envision larger gatherings working only when they are framed as an institutional construct?

    • Greg,

      Only in that bigger size requires more “organisation”. I can’t remember which book it was in, but I remember one author suggesting that any group over 12 becomes an “organisation”.

      I would love to see established churches learn from the practices of organic communities and incorporate these practices. There are many personality types who won’t ever leave the “system”, but don’t know what they are missing out on.

      Maybe I’m an optimist. Maybe we just have to stick with “either/or”. But I would love to see more churches embrace “both/and” (I think this shift is already taking place in some communities).

      • Having read your strong arguments against organised church, your optimism seems suddenly and strangely incurable, and I’m at a loss to understand why it’s so compelling to want larger gatherings given their colossal failure to breed Life.
        Iv’e been to several larger institutional gatherings (mainly conferences but a few meetings too) but Iv’e never been to or heard of a larger (non institutional) gathering than a few dozen souls other than a ‘Koinonia’ gathering back in the 70’s where 3 or 4 ‘house churches’ got together for a weekend.
        It was foreign to those of us that had never been to church, but, the ones who organised it had come from mainline churches, and appeared to try to recapture whatever it was they missed from their past.
        The whole thing flopped, as there were so many of us that had no clue what to do when intimacy wasn’t the culture. It was my one and only (really uncomfortable) time with collective passivity, waiting for somebody to lead, and we youngsters wondered aloud what the objective was. We got some hard stares, which is when I realized that they were trying to breed a hybrid church.
        It occurred to me years later that hybrids rarely reproduce.
        Being 17 yrs old and a new convert, I wasn’t equipped to autopsy the victim (the entire experience) but my spirit was a bit on guard after that for any slippage into ecumenism which was running its course in the churches just at that time. (70’s)
        Within a month of conversion, I’d inadvertently tweaked the beak of an ecumenical hawk, and paid the price for it., so I was sensitized.
        I’m trying to think of why it would be necessary to get a lot of folks together, other than just for the fun of it?
        After centuries of trying and failing, why do you think you can achieve intimacy with leaderless family style interactions, within organisations?

        • You could be right Greg – my optimism may be misplaced and unrealistic. It certainly takes a denting, now and then.

          I’m not looking to “get a lot of folks together” – what I would like to do is get established churches to confront their limitations, and creatively seek ways to do community / active learning / discipleship better. It saddens my heart to watch the frustrated / youth / thinkers all abandon their local churches, leaving them further weakened and unable to change. For this reason, my family and I have returned to our local church, while also being involved in “fresh expressions” of church.

          Even after centuries of trying and failing, the cultural shifts I see around me give me hope that we might see intimacy and organisation walk delicately in unity – it could be messy, but it’s worth hoping for. If God wants to restore the whole world to Himself, I don’t want to give up on His people.

          • I would LOVE to be able to gather together as a bigger group sporadically….. but I assume we will have to wait for heaven for it! πŸ™‚ and we can wait, if that is what God desires!

            But don’t many people believe that in the NT that is what happened when the apostles visited a church, right? When a leader visitor (church planter, apostle) came to visit….the Church in that city would all come together.

            But in normal daily life, they lived like any family. I don’t invite my ENTIRE family over every week, day. I invite the ones I am closest with and sharing life together on a daily basis. Isn’t this the same vision for Church family life?

            Family reunions with ALL of the family in the city would be sooo cool. But because of our human tendency for pride (somebody wanting to lead) and desire for control (creating an organization out of it)…. it doesn’t seem possible. Maybe in heaven we will have cool things like this!!!! can’t wait! πŸ™‚

            I have seen this happen with seminars, church leaders coming into town in our current way of doing things. Perhaps that is the form it takes now.

            Just rambling πŸ™‚

          • Kathleen.
            It seems to me that your cry is similar to Jesus’ as he wept over Jerusalem, and the prophets before him, who expressed Gods long suffering love in various ways from weeping to rebuke. Though we’ve jilted His love millennium after millennium, both Israel and the church still are the apple of His eye, and you see us that way too.
            It doesn’t matter where you ‘attend’ then, because you are loving your brethren as you love yourself, and as He loves us.
            Believe it or not, I found myself at the end of 3 decades, in that same fix among the remnant, those who had, as it were, left Babylon and returned to rebuild the temple and walls.
            For ten years now, we have been seeking restoration with them, after they kicked us out for loving too much.
            His story keeps going around and around.
            I believe you and your family will be used to show the sad, but always hoping heart of God to many who cant yet see His plan.
            If I may say so, I’ve rarely run across such meekness as yours.
            Moses was the meekest man alive, at the time, which means with every reason to be angry, self righteous or take up a personal offence for his enslaved brethren, he chose to trust God.
            After he killed the Egyptian.
            Before that, he was useless in Gods hand because he saw himself as a savior instead of a slave of God.
            I think you made my point about family when you used the example of a large gathering. That point being that within the everyday boundary of our own immediate families, we don’t think or act within the framework of leaders, teaching, meeting etc ,and neither do we (if we are healthy) when all the cousins and aunts come over. The only motive for getting together as a larger family is to get together, because we enjoy each others company.
            That’s church, large or small.
            We trust that everyone is taking responsibility for themselves and their own immediate dependents and the only time anyone sticks their neck out to ‘lead’ is when the train goes off the rails or an announcement needs to be made.
            Other than that, we pretty much do the same things we do every day.
            Eat, drink, talk, sing etc.
            Trying to get folks to stop playing king of the castle in large gatherings is hard, and there will always be some that dont learn.
            Im not too well versed in large gatherings but Id get together as little as I could get away with if I was blessed with that sort of family.
            Why bother trying to ride a wild horse if you dont need to?
            In history there have only been a few times when all of Gods people were able to be together and not self destruct. Both times were when Gods appointed men, David and Jesus, were Kings on earth in our hearts.

  15. Thanks for your comment Greg πŸ™‚

    I am not intelligent or sharp enough to even understand your comment on meekness and if you are encouraging me or trying to sharpen me with correction. lol πŸ™‚ sorry – that one flew over my head

  16. Forgive me for not getting to read all the comments.What a great discussion! For me this post points to the next paradigm shift even for simple churches: We need to figure out what “church” looks like that includes our kids at all levels. The Jewish religious structures get some of this right, I think, seeing the families as base-level religious gatherings. We’re just learning (and honestly don’t have enough folks in our simple church yet to really learn well), but my hunch is that we’re still focusing too much on the gatherings, even with a simple organic church. Perhaps there’s a shift here to see a church as a network of families, with some disciple-makers discipling and linking the families together, whatever their gatherings look like with kids. Just thinking out loud….

    • Wow, Luke, your comment has got my mind spinning. I love the reminder that family is the base unit of church, and always was in Jewish culture, where the home is a more important “religious institution” than the synagogue. I’m going to be doing lots of reading and thinking on this concept in the coming days and weeks, and try to intentionally create better rhythms and rituals into our family life.

      Thanks for blessing me this comment today. I appreciate your “thinking aloud”.

      – Kathleen

      • awesome thoughts on family from Luke.

        I can sense that the Lord is really teaching me about discipling others as I disciple my children. What He is doing now is even more beautiful…and that is that He has linked me up with others moms and us moms disciple each other…..and I even get a chance to disciple their children. And the way God naturally has created blood families to operate as they seek His kingdom & righteousness….is I believe exactly how He desires HIS family to operate and function.

        I believe the question is….. are we willing to give up our previous definitions of family (blood relation……or people living in a home)….and allow others in to our daily life & family??

        Enter the group of people right now that are living this out… or desiring to…..the new monastics/intentional community seekers… our brother CHris we have journeyed with for years. he built a house for this specific purpose alone…this intentional community.. to live HIS family life – not the american family life. check out his blog for more:

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