Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Who wants to start a movement?

The other day my husband and I were having one of our conversations while wandering out of the local Large Chain Bookstore, and he turned to me and said, "Do you think Jesus wanted to start a church?"

I'll admit right now, this kind of question sort of annoys me, what with me being a pastor in a -- you know -- church, and all. My husband is deeply into the Jesus Movement writers, particularly Crossan and Borg; in fact, to tell the truth, he is more of a fan than I am. While at the bookstore, he was checking out a book about Jesus and Paul, and how Paul, not Jesus, started the church. Which, of course, led to the question, "Do you think Jesus wanted to start a church?"

Well, after the first wave of defensiveness passed, this is what I answered: "It depends on what you mean by 'church'". If, by church, you mean the institution, with all its bureaucracy, hierarchy and patriarchy (not to mention a few more "archys"), probably not. But if you mean by 'church' a movement of people committed to gathering together to worship and to serve, to pay attention to and work for the Kingdom of God among them and in the world, yes, I think he did."

I'll bet if the "church" was less an institution and more a movement, some different kinds of people might want to join. Like, tax collectors and sinners. The blind who are made to see, and the lame who now walk. Little kids with crumbly fish and a little bread. A few zealots who want to change the world.

What do you think?

Want to join a movement?


Ivy said...

Yes, you're on to something there. As a teenager, when I began following Christ (in the 70s)that interested me much more than the institution. Good post, Diane.

FranIAm said...

Here I come, probably looking like a duplicitous jerk because I am a part of the "we were here first! accept no cheap imitations! big big big hierarchy" crew.

Forgive me that Lord Jesus and blog readers. While I have left my tradition at times, I seem to have some roots in my community there that run very deep in You, my God.

Please tell your husband, whom I have met that I am glad that he started this conversation. Please tell yourself (whom I have met!) that I am glad that you put up this post.

I do not think - imagine a Catholic saying this (although I got it from Hans Kung) - that Jesus meant to start a church.

I do think that Jesus meant to start a way of life.

And here we are still all flailing around trying to be in that life.

While church is not all good or all bad, we must keep the focus on why we are church.

It is on Him.

Thanks Diane, this is a movement that I want to be a part of and hope that I am.

FranIAm said...

You do know that no matter what my "church" says and what my joking line says I do not believe that "accept no cheap imitations" part!!

Felt I needed to add that after seeing my comment!!!

Diane said...

Fran, I knew you didn't mean that part.

Obviously I'm a pastor, I love the church (well, sometimes). but I do think we need to pay more attention to the "movement" part of it than the "institution" part.

Also, I need to read more Hans Kung.

DogBlogger said...

You've just nailed a prevalent line of conversation in the UMC for the past couple of years. I like it when I see such topics springing from more than one place.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I agree with the idea that Jesus was more interested in lifestyle and movement than in creating an institution.

Institutions take on a life of their own, and they will fight to survive just as people do. Often a lot of individual people get hurt or trampled by the institution's struggle to live. I don't think that's ever what God intended. I think that's why we keep getting people like St. Francis and Martin Luther and oh so many others who are sent to shake up that institution and bring it back to the passion of "movement."

Anonymous said...

I don't want to join any movement where the names on the list include Crossan and Borg.

Diane said...

Well, Dave, I wasn't thinking of them myself, I was thinking of Jesus starting the movement. But I'm willing to include anybody he's willing to include.

How about Hans Kung? Would you join a movement that included Hans Kung?

Just wondering

Lindy said...

Well, I join up with Crossan and Borg. But, I'd include Gloria and Kenneth Copeland too... Like Jesus, I am totally lacking in discrimination about who I hang out with.

I believe that when we exclude even one person we become blind to the way that God manifests only through that one and I can't afford any more blindness than I already have.

I do believe that Jesus intended for there to be a thing called Christianity, or something along those lines. I doubt that he's too impressed with the hierarchy/patriarchy part. But, I do think that being a member of this movement is a group activity. We don't do it alone. Even the desert mothers and fathers had support and were connected to their communities in various ways. and that -- those connections, mutual support and encouragement -- is the church.

For all its foibles I think every Christian should be part of a community church.

Choralgirl said...

You can't see it from there, but my answer is a big grin.

GreenishLady said...

I was brought up in the Catholic church, and the day I decided to leave was around the time in my early teens I had a reverie/fantasy/daydream as I sat in Mass... a sandaled, berobed, long-haired man slipped in the side-door of the church, quietly took a seat and observed the event. I watched his bemused face as he tried to make sense out of it, and his dejection as he slipped unnoticed back out the door. My conviction was that Jesus wouldn't think most of what was happening had anything to do with what He had intended. My search for something that made more sense to me was certainly influenced by that realisation.

Diane said...

to Lindy: one reason I use "movement" more than "lifestyle" is that lifestyle sounds more individualistic to me. I do believe that Jesus wanted to found a community.

Also, Lindy: I don't want to leave anyone out, either.

choralgirl: wanna join?

greenish lady: would be interested in learning more about your journey.

Rev SS said...

I'm with Ruth HC ..."I think that's why we keep getting people like St. Francis and Martin Luther and oh so many others who are sent to shake up that institution and bring it back to the passion of "movement."

Jan said...

I definitely do not think Jesus meant to start a "church." I believe he wanted to show us how to live--so that would be a "movement" "on the way."

And I happen to like what Crossan and Borg (and Kung) and Rohr (and, and, and) write and say.

Choralgirl said...

I'm in! :-)

Jiff said...

A way of life, absolutely.
A church, probably not.
I'm sure that community is part of the way of life, for many, though, and so I'm grateful for the company and the inspiration of many writers who are trying to follow Jesus.

barbara said...

Are you kidding??? The movement started a long time ago and I am part of the movement. I think the directive to see and treat everyone as Him was the only direction the movement could take and stay true to itself.
Of course, it has morphed and struggled and gone underground from time to time... but we don't need to start it. It is right here, right now. We just need to become present to it.

Diane said...

Hey Barbara, you're right, of course. the movement started a long time ago. Glad you visited my blog.

Jan said...

There's a wonderful essay by Jim Winkler about the Methodist Movement lacking, but I think you'd find it

Jan said...

Diane, I'm always bad at doing links. I'll email the article to you!