What If?

What if “church” actually benefited its participants rather than burdened them?

What if contributing to the local gathering of saints actually helped each family and each individual practically live life more like God intended?

What if we got together and bought one of the homes that has been foreclosed on in our neighborhood? It sure seems like there are some in every block these days. What if neighbors walked to what was truly a “neighborhood church”? What if our “church” mortgage was $800 a month instead of $8000?

What if we spent less on maintaining a massive building, that sucks our money and our time and just hung out with other like-minded people in a local gathering each week? What if we spent some time giving God the worship of our lips, spent some time reading His words to us and discussing them, broke some bread together, and discussed one another’s lives, played some games, danced with our kids to the sound of praise music, sometimes chatted till the wee hours, then walked back home?

What if that local home we bought together in each neighborhood became a “one-room schoolhouse”? What if one or some of the recent school or college grad girls taught our children down the street, using curriculum we approve of and teaching according to goals we agree upon? Or what if each Mom took one day a week as the “school-marm”?

What if we lived close enough to share a lawn mower between 3 families?

What if living out the gospel actually helped the environment, saved money and freed up more for giving to the needy instead of paying down interest, taught our children what we believed rather than what the godless want them to believe, fought greed, kept the cost of living down, fostered neighborhood economics, supported local commerce, and built deep relationships between members of the same local gathering of the Church? Could the Gospel really look like that? Could that have been part of God’s intent for us?

What would happen?

Is it possible that God gave us a societal blueprint that met all those goals? Is it possible that God’s omniscience could have anticipated all the woes of our Western, individualistic, consumer society and formulated a way of life that would have prevented them?

Do you believe in homeschooling (or at least cooperative, small schooling)? Do you believe God actually meant for His people to live in community? Do you believe God really meant for us to progress in Christ-likeness by following the principles He laid out in Scripture? Well…there’s a house for sale next door to me. There’s another one abandoned 3 doors down. There’s a park around the corner, there’s a grocery store around the other corner. I’d love to see what would happen…

12 thoughts on “What If?

  1. Nate,

    I love it! This has been my heart for a long time. In fact, it very well sums up much of the vision that we have in our current community. We have no desire to build a building, as having homes in neighborhoods is much more effective. Raising our children as a community is a big part of where we’re going. Currently we have a homeschool co-op in which 3 families participate.

    I love your suggestion about living close enough that 3 families could share the same lawn mower. What a concept! We actually begin to share the things that we don’t need every waking minute. Good-bye materialism! Hello relationship and community!

    Very good my friend.

  2. I like the reminders that posts like this bring. We have indeed forgotten community.

    However, it is a reminder of how much work we have to do and we cannot give up. The stakes are too important.

  3. It seems to me that the time has never been more opportune than now, nor more desperately needed.

    Our society is so decidedly post-Christian and in many ways anti-Christian that it is no longer possible for any believer to justify sending their children to public school, yet how many continue to do so?

    Take a brief tour of the media our children are exposed to: MTV now has dating shows that include a porn star playing “the bachelorette” with men and women competing to be the one she chooses. Do you have some Facebook friends that are teens? Take a run through the comments their friends make on their pictures. Opening up our home to various teens has opened our eyes wide!!!

    I knew the world had changed when a German exchange student came home from her first day of public school and said, “Germany is not like that.” in reference to some of the rampant corruption of societal mores that she witnessed on her first bus ride to school.

    “Church” as we’ve known it for the last 50 years has failed miserably. The lifestyle American Christians have practiced for the last 75 years has failed utterly. The frog is in the pot; the water is boiling; it is high time we jumped out!!!

  4. ribbet… this froggy jumped out a long time ago… :) unfortunately, my local Christian friends don’t “get it” when I’ve suggested group shopping (think food pantry/bulk buying and sharing) I’ve gotten blank stares… sharing my house so others could get out of deep debt, no dice, it would cramp their style, I guess… in my estimation it must be like AA, first folks have to realize there’s a problem… and we’re not “there” yet. HaShem only knows what it’s going to take.
    Thanks for the thoughts, like always, good stuff Bro.
    Blessings to you, Aaron, & Bill!

  5. Yeah, Ed, I think part of the complication is that it is so difficult to convince people that “good” things are adding up to an evil sum. What’s wrong with Little League? Nothing. What’s wrong with having a nice house? Nothing. But add all these (and many others) together and we have a ‘church’ that is no longer salty.

  6. I noticed you link to Ben Witherington’s review of “Pagan Christianity?”. There’s a great critique by another scholar here: http://www.paganchristianity.org/zensresponds1.htm .
    The sequel is out too-“Reimagining Church”. It picks up where “Pagan Christianity?” left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity?” was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.) “Reimagining Church” is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org . It’s also available on Amazon.com. Frank is also blogging now at http://frankviola.wordpress.com/ .

  7. Hi, Jill. While I appreciate much of Frank Viola’s passion for seeing the church be more faithful and focused, his book Pagan Christianity (the current version and the original version) are irresponsible, mostly because they are historically misleading. His overall viewpoint and some of his more outlandish comments are only “possible” because Viola is a supersessionist, as is Zens, whose response to Witherington I found unimpressive.

    I would love to see church re-imagined, but not at the cost of revisionist history and unbiblical theology. Witherington gives me pause on several issues, but in this case (his critique of Viola) he hit the nail on the head.

    I’m confident that if Viola and I sat down over lunch we’d find much to agree upon, including a shared concern for the state of the Church, however, I believe his rhetoric and some of his methods are doing more harm than good.

  8. Nate- I really appreciated this post, my spirit leaps within me whenever I read or discuss matters pertaining to genuine and authentic community. I believe that the lack of commitment in this area has severely crippled individuals and thus the effectiveness of the church as a whole. There is a tremendous blessing to be poured out upon a people who are willing to take on a life of sacrifice with each other. The LORD designed us for life together, one just needs to look at all the “one another” passages in the Word. One other thing that is unfortunate and a barrier to climb is that people are very scared to look cultic. But considering the times we live in and how immersed we are in the secular culture, changes NEED to look rather radical in the eyes of most. If it isn’t viewed as radical, then chances are it is not enough to break the mold of independency that our society has built on us.

    It is great to be in contact with you…you know I am still waiting on that call for when you are down to Indy =). I appreciate your comments on my blog, keep em’ comin’!!

  9. Unfortunately fear of being perceived as cult-like is widespread; it gives some perspective when one realizes that in Germany, for example, any church not the Catholic or Lutheran (the two state churches) are considered cults. So the Methodists, Baptists, etc., etc. are all cults.

    I need to be intentional about creating some time in Indy…normally I’m running from one meeting to another while I’m there…and this week I’m heading to Michigan. But we’ll make it happen!

  10. Nate-

    This is my first visit to your blog, and I must say I am rather impressed, and I have to say its very encouraging to see such a deep exploration/analysis of the state of the church. I too wrote a “what if…”essay/poem in a similar vein to yours. I hope all is well in Indiana, and may see you at a future clericus or synod. God bless
    Erika

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