Troublemakers in the church? Or just people asking the right questions?


The church has a long history of pot-stirrers and righteous troublemakers. Every now and then, a group of people start asking questions from within, disrupting the peace, challenging the system, and driving the church back to biblical principles. The protestant movement was born when Martin Luther directly confronted the practices of the Catholic church. Various groups of dissenters arose over the next few centuries, rejecting a form of religion they saw as unhealthy and unhelpful. Most of our congregations and doctrines today have arisen from the efforts of the dissenters and protesters of the past.

Last year, Alan Knox cheekily wrote an article naming me as a troublemaker in the church (and many readers at Sermon Central would probably agree), because I ask questions about the way we meet, the way we learn and the way we lead. The irony, of course, is that Alan is continually provoking people to rethink how we assemble as the church. He also named fellow mischief-maker Miguel Labrador, who is always willing to tackle heavy questions front-on, generating robust discussions. I’d like to add a few more names to the list of modern-day dissenters – a few of my personal favourites, whose blogs I read regularly. If you haven’t already come across him, make sure you check out Jeremy Myers – he writes thought-provoking articles and e-books which will shake up some of your assumptions about church. Then there’s Eric Carpenter, who is currently working with Jeremy on a book called “What we’re for” (I’m a contributor). Make sure you read some of Eric Hatfield‘s blog too  – a fellow Aussie with a delightful talent for dry sarcasm. Keith Giles is another one who is willing to subvert the establishment and rattle a few cages. One of the newest additions to the network is Richard Jacobson, whose clever videos and cartoons add another medium for communicating some of the issues in the modern institutional church.

I’d like to give a special mention to the most visible and audible presence in the worldwide church today, Pope Francis, who (to my very great joy and delight) is willing to butt heads with the hierarchy and speak out against “clericalization” of the church. What a legend!

Through this blog and Twitter, I’m connecting regularly with pastors and laypeople who are willing to take on the establishment, ask hard questions, take risks, and grapple with a new way of “doing church”. You know who you are! Thank you for being willing to step out on this journey, which could bring so much change in your local church and beyond.

I’m so grateful for these many people whose voices are rising up to ask questions about the way we do church. I’m convinced God’s church is robust enough to cope with a good shakedown, and come out healthier at the other end. Questions need to be asked – and some people are brave enough to ask them. Jesus himself had no problem confronting religious practices gone sour. Please let me know if there are any writers or speakers who have inspired you to question and rethink church practices today, and where that journey is taking you.

13 thoughts on “Troublemakers in the church? Or just people asking the right questions?

  1. Thanks for this post. It is a good reminder. Thinks certainly are changing fast, and the Spirit of God is at work to guide and direct these changes. Hopefully we listen and follow.

    Thanks for being a contributor to this book Eric is putting out. I am excited to see it in its final form.

    • Hi Jeremy, hope you didn’t mind me labeling you as a dissident!

      What excites me about the book project is the reconstruction theme, rather than just deconstruction. The church is ready for change, not just critique.

      Thanks for all you do,

      – Kathleen

  2. I always enjoy reading what troublemakers in the church have to say. Some of my favorites are Keith Giles, whom you’ve already mentioned, Benjamin Corey at Formerly Fundie, and Rachel Held Evans. Asking questions about whether the church is following Jesus or not can only be a good thing, IMHO.

    • Hi Donna, thanks for the link to Benjamin Corey – I’ll look him up. I love RHE’s work – laughed so hard reading “A year of biblical womanhood”! She brings great humour and insight to the discussion.


      – Kathleen

  3. I am definitely one such troublemaker. It’s what led to my book, The Story Lives: Leading a Missional Revolution ( Jesus didn’t “do” church the way we commonly do church. He told us to “be” the church. It takes troublemakers to keep us on that path because “doing” church is so much easier than “being” the church. Living your story makes the being easier.

    • Hi Henriet, I’ve read the first chapter of your book on the website and would like to read the whole thing – unfortunately, I’m not getting any response when I click on “Buy now”. How can I order a copy?

      – Kathleen

  4. I don’t think I would be considered a trouble-maker within the church. I left the traditional church because I had so many questions and felt it was not what God intended His Church to be. I suppose if I was still there and a more outspoken person, I too, would be considered a troublemaker. Glad to hear there are many who question the man-made institution and want to see the Church function as a community of believers rather than an organized religious meeting.

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