What Happened to Wonder?

It’s a bit like playing a game of snap. Just as I was posting about how I crave a different church service, Tim Schraeder asks “What happened to wonder?“. Here he grapples with the same kinds of ideas. Just goes to show maybe I’m not crazy! He says:

There’s a tension that many churches are dealing with these days when it comes to their services and it’s the battle between right and left brained thinking, or emotion over intellect.

Churches, well the progressive, innovative, edgy ones, get production. Some churches feel like a rock show or Broadway, and while I’m a bit indifferent to their methods, I feel that in looking, sounding and feeling like the world we’ve lost a true sense of wonder.

Today our churches look and feel more like conference centers or coffee shops and instead of creating reverent, reflective space, they are cozy and casual. Gizmodo did an article about the STORY Conference which we hosted at Park a few months ago and said, “The Park Community Church in Chicago is a multi-story Christian center that more closely resembles a Starbucks than any cathedral—and in fact houses its own coffee shop.”

I’m not saying those things are bad, people obviously need to be in space that’s warm an inviting… but I guess I’m wrestling with if that’s the right way.

While I completely agree that the message is what matters most, the tension we live in is the fact that people hear messages on different wavelengths. Some can sit and listen to a 45 minute sermon and get it. Other people need to see a picture or hear a story, some need to hear a song. Some people need to be inspired by beauty while others simply need sacred space to reflect and remember. There’s multiple ways to hear the same message.

Today, flickering pixels are our stained glass and God has given us so many new ways to communicate His unchanging message… to do things that evoke our emotions and touch both our mind and our heart. To bring words to life through an image, a story, or a song.

I’m not saying we need to reproduce a jonsi concert, add more lights or more music, get bigger screens and better projectors… I just wholeheartedly believe we need to first be captured with the awe and wonder of who God is and let Him use the gifts He’s uniquely given to all of us to share the what we have seen …

When was the last time you left church in awe… not of the production, music, lights, or anything else… but truly left in awe of who God is and what He’s done?

Schraeder believes that the artist can help save the church. I agree that the arts should figure more prominently (their demise is a consequence of modernism) but disagree that they can (alone) save the church. I do however totally and wholeheartedly agree on where he’s going with it all. If I could go to a church service that I could dream up, it would be one which made me wonder – about God, life, relationships, heaven, earth, people, glory, mystery, faith, miracles, pain, suffering and redemption. I would have a space to reflect, pray, listen to Him and worship. I would not experience a show, a production, a lecture trying to explain or teach anything, desperate fundraising, coercion, pressure, alienation for not volunteering or humiliation.

Schraeder asks pointed questions, that really deserve answers from today’s contemporary modern church:

When was the last time you sat in wonder of God’s love and grace? When was the last time your heart was truly moved? Where is the sense of wonder?

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I went to church today for the first time in months

My wife is off traveling OS with the eldest… so I’ve got the 4 and 7 yr old, so I decided to take them to church today…. for something to do…. And I decided I’d journal through the service… so here are my thoughts, hot off the press.

First up I notice the whole stage is done up… looks like they’ve spent maybe 10-15K on curtains, sound proofing and paint. Something I wanted to do for years but couldn’t scrape the money together. They’ve been saving lots on wages since over the last 12 months five staff have left. The worship doesn’t seem better or any more vibrant, despite people telling me that there’s a “move of God” because of the new pastor. It’s basically the same – although there was less people. But then I guess why would it be the same? Unless things fundamentally change the outward expression can’t.

Worship has started. The new guy is still busy shaking hands. He comes over and shakes mine, which I’m reluctant to do… then he said sorry for starting on the wrong foot. I said, it doesn’t matter (I mean “whatever”).

The fact that he froze me out and refused to meet me gave me heaps of grief and I’m slowly coming to terms with that. But then again looking on the positive side, maybe it just helped me face reality that I am useless and really don’t have anything to offer.

I am not needed and have nothing to contribute that someone else isn’t already contributing and anything I could do that isn’t being done is simply not important.

We’re up to the third song now. I’m singing and worshiping God because I love him, but at the same time I’m thinking it’s great to not have to make this service happen. There are times if its dead I would feel stress and feel like I’d have to do something to make something happen. There was always the worry that people will leave saying its dead and when word gets out that its dead it’s like poison.

I don’t know this last song… so I’m just kinda hanging with God. I don’t feel like I need to be singing. I’m not sure what people think I’m doing on my PDA… they probably think I’m texting someone! Who cares!

It’s just dawned on me…. I just figured out what part of the body of Christ i am – the appendix. No-one knows what it’s good for… and if it causes a problem or breaks, you don’t fix it… you surgically remove it and toss it on the scrapheap.

The next thing that dawns on me as the music is playing is the amazing thing is, God even loves stuff that isn’t useful… Like thunder, sunsets, the stars and planets, art, and poetry. I guess if we only view things through the lens of modernity, effectiveness, and usefulness then we are going to misunderstand a lot about God and His kingdom.

I always knew God didn’t need me… I’ve even preached it. But why did he have to use this church – my church, to teach me such a painful lesson?

I really enjoyed worship although for some reason, the kids don’t go to kids church until afterward, so my two were restless and a bit hyperactive. Not sure how parents are really supposed to engage with God if their kids are running around… but I guess pastors who have teenage kids don’t think about that….

It is tough experiencing a modern church through post-modern eyes… For example, the pastor just jumped up and said something to the effect of “we are people of the book, etc… Believe the truth… The inspired Word of God… your emotions won’t set you free, the truth will….blah blah blah.” But once we realise that the truth is in fact a person, not cold hard facts, but Jesus, and the word is Jesus and that it becomes law when the two are separated, it’s a bit hard to swallow.

I think i will one day find a way to serve God outside of the conventional church, but inside his kingdom.

I reckon that because we value mastery over mystery we elevate principles and in doing so we become legalistic and religious and don’t need the holy spirit. The enemy gets us with a double whammy.
My former senior pastor and coach has flown in, and is preaching now, which is one of the reasons I decided to go to church today. He says the purpose of covenant is to bring us into union with God and into union with each other. He’s talking about something I believe deeply. That church is first and foremost relationship vertically, then relationship horizontally. I just wish there wasn’t so much baggage hanging off all that and it was much simpler. His son (a close friend of mine) who burned out a few years ago didn’t come… another victim in ministry.

It wasn’t bad but i was done by 90 minutes though with another half hour to go. What I listened to most was when my former coach talked about himself and when he gave an example of how he would pray the lord’s prayer, in fact I had goosebumps. The information side of things though (the hebrew definitions) I could do without.

Final thoughts… I guess i just love the church as it is, warts and all and to not be part of something one loves is really sad. I think that’s why its been so hard and painful. Yes, I know things need to change radically in the church, but that doesn’t stop me from loving what it is today.

Maybe i needed the pain to become disillusioned enough to look for something new and to truly see how crippled the church of today is.

On the upside, one good thing is that I don’t feel sick… just sad and useless… which is much better than sick!

About Jack!

I’m writing under a pseudonym from somewhere in the western world. I don’t want anyone to get hurt by what we say, because we’re not targeting anyone, so for now, like The Stig, we’ll remain anonymous.

I’ve been a christian 20 years, and 19 of those I have been in leadership. For the last 8 years I have been full-time as a pastor/leader of a large church (ten times large than the average western church). This year however, due to burnout and depression and almost failed marriage I resigned. Now i’m on the scrapheap.

I have three kids, still attend the church I resigned from, and now I’m working in a factory and on dairy farms.

This is my attempt to explore the scrapheap. How did we get here? Why are we here? What can we learn?

I say we, because other scrapheap pastors will be contributing so we get various perspectives. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, about ministry and leadership, about church, christianity, religion and God. We want to share our journeys to the scrapheap and beyond to help other pastors who are heading down this road, and because we love God and His church and know deep down in our hearts that something’s gotta change.

We want to say the stuff that other pastors know, but won’t admit, because we haven’t anything to lose. We also hope you can be part of the conversation. Very little will be censored unless we start talking AT each other or yelling which is pretty unproductive, at least it has for the last couple thousands years in the life of the church.

If you’d like to join our team, contact me.

The Scrapheap Pastors

We’re a bunch of pastors and leaders, who through various circumstances found ourselves broken, discarded and on the scrapheap. The view from here though is interesting to say the least! We talk about our experience as leaders with burnout, ministry and try and pen what we’ve learned. We want to help others avoid our fate and we dream of a different church that doesn’t consume it’s leaders.