Buying Bars & Going Broke: Deconstructing Christianity and Church
In 2014 I started a dangerous conversation with a good friend of mine. I said the words,
“We should start a business together.”
Ok, let’s pause so all the How I Met Your Mother fans can let out all their “WE SHOULD BUY A BAR” jokes…
You good now?
Great. Let’s continue.
I was serious. At that point, I was a fairly new student pastor with plenty on my plate and a very unpredictable weekly schedule, and he hated his job. So naturally, we thought starting our own business would make all our troubles go away.
We pondered and debated for years what we could do together. We contemplated a bier garten, a hookah lounge, an upscale drink and vapor cafe for young professionals, and a hundred other “no one’s ever thought of this” ideas. Eventually, we realized there’s probably a good reason no one had ever thought of those things…
they were dumb.
But here’s the best part:
It wasn’t but a couple of conversations after the “we should start a business” comment, and we were already driving around town looking for the best location for our new endeavor…
whatever THAT was going to be.
We hadn’t even decided on an actual business, and we were already looking for a venue!
Eventually, thanks to the Holy Spirit and some common sense, we decided on a video production business. With admiration for good art, love for people, and a passion for storytelling, we created Nomad Video Productions. We get to film weddings, create promotional videos, and capture the thrill of others’ events, all while having fun and being creative. So far, we have loved almost every moment of it.
Our original trajectory was headed for disaster.
We weren’t sure what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, or even why, but dammit, we were determined to find a building and take on a huge mortgage!
Sadly, this is one of the most common and most misguided practices of Western Christianity today.
We experience God and His radically life-changing love for us, and naturally, we long to share that with others.
So we think, “let’s start something.”
Then we talk about all the things we want to do, who will do them, and how wonderful it will be. We dream about the beautiful freedom, community, and purpose God will bring through this new “something”, and we get to a point where we just can’t wait any longer.
So we start asking, “where are we going to do this?” and our problems take off from there.
The majority of western Christianity is stuck operating like a business, or even like a nonprofit organization. We are formulating plans, paying people, and spending millions of dollars on buildings in which to do our work.
We strategize, monetize, and mobilize.
And by taking on a truckload of debt, blowing all our financial resources on a location, or simply communicating that facilities are more important than serving people with everything we have
we jeopardize everything Jesus came to do.
In John 2 we find the famous scene of Jesus clearing the temple. He then tells the Jewish leaders
This is a well-known saying of His that refers to his death and resurrection, but dig deeper and it gets even more interesting.
Jesus is considered the incarnation of God Himself, meaning He is the very essence, presence, and nature of God in human form; He is “the Word made flesh”
In 1 Corinthians, Paul says “Do you not know that you are the temple of God?”
The really interesting thing about this verse is that the “you” in this sentence is plural. He is saying
“ALL OF YOU, together, make up the temple of God”
I realized while deconstructing Christianity and how we do church,
that if Jesus is referring to the temple AND to His body,
and if WE ARE the temple of God AND the Body of Christ,
then Jesus isn’t just talking about the death and resurrection of His physical body.
He also means that His life, death, and resurrection destroyed the old system of temple, and resurrected it anew through His metaphorical body…
We, together, are His body.
We, together, are the resurrected temple of God.
We, together, are Church.
The way of Jesus was and is so much more than just an event. It is so much more than a lifetime of events.
It is so much grander and more pervasive than something that happens in a building on a Sunday,
or in a class on a Wednesday,
or a home on a Friday.
Church is who we are.
It is what happens each and every time we are together.
Church is when we think of one another and send a text saying as much.
It’s when we meet up for coffee or when we pass each other in the grocery store.
It’s when we sit together in a living room clutching a pillow or holding a new baby.
Church is who we are.
In order for church to really be Church,
in our work deconstructing Christianity and how we gather,
it would do us good to put aside our cultural norms and expectations. It would help us see the beauty that Church and community were always meant to be if we could only get rid of what is currently blocking our sight.
If we are to redeem church and resurrect honest faith, community, and purpose for our lives, we must be willing to not only move beyond our buildings and our events, but to even consider abandoning them so that we can truly be the Church in our normal, regular, routine lives.
If we will do the hard work to see church as something that naturally flows out of who we are, we can take giant leaps toward providing a home for the spiritually homeless.
We can recover a sense of community for the 37 million Christians in America that want nothing to do with institutional church structures.
We can reach people that fear and hate church with the love of Jesus that will go to any lengths for any sing one of them.
We can subversively change the tide of our culture, just like the disciples and the earliest followers of The Way did thousands of years ago
We could truly be the body of Jesus.
A body that runs toward the world with empty hands, full hearts, and genuine relationship.
A body that would do much more than save millions of dollars.
We could save millions of people from their poverty.
We could restore hurting people from their broken relationships.
We could rescue God’s loved ones from their debilitating loneliness.
God left his throne and came to us.
Will we leave ours and go to them?
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