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But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.
— Habakkuk 2:20

Do you know the Greek myth of Echo the Oread? She was a nymph who loved hearing her own voice. And, as the mythology goes, she fell into a romance with Narcissus.

I think a lot of the rejections in evangelicalism today of God’s sovereignty and biblical infallibility are not unrelated to the more recent conversations about the need to attend regular local church services. They are all simply manifestations of a rejection of authority, and while of course those who make these rejections will not say they are rejecting God — but rather the artificial or modernist fabrications of those who claim to speak for God — the treasured principle nevertheless does not seem to be what God has actually said but what one feels in the heart (or some similar thing). I think it’s because we don’t want anyone being the boss of us, and because doctrines like biblical infallibility (and biblical perspicuity) and experiences like church services are too restrictive, too conforming, too narrow a space for “me to be me.”

Frank Viola wrote back in 2011:

I know a lot of very well-known teachers and preachers . . . What’s interesting is that many of them don’t belong to any church. None at all. And neither do their families. Nor are they part of any ministry team wherein there is close-knit fellowship and mutual submission.

There’s probably lots of reasons for this, but some of them are teased out in Donald Miller’s recent post where he triple-downs on his admission of not attending church services. It has something to do with embracing the “agency” taught in Hebrews apparently, and embodying the “organized chaos” of Acts. You know, the Hebrews where we’re told not to forsake the regular worship assembly and the Acts where we’re told the church gathered regularly in devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to hear a guy preach.

And so I think we ought to see the talk about agency and enjoying the church outside formality and institutions and the traditions of singing songs and listening to monologue teaching for what it really is: self-worship. A self-indulgent love of our own voices and preferring of them above all others. In church, after all, no one can hear you tweet.

Certainly one can be self-centered inside a church gathering, but the church gathering is nevertheless where all the sinners ought to be at the appointed time, smack-dab in the middle of a congregational experience specifically organized against the idolatry of personal preference. Not just because God says to do it — although that’s reason enough — but because it is good for us to have our singular voice lost in the sea of corporate praise and it is good for us to shut our social-media-motor-mouths for a bit and hear “Thus saith the Lord.” We should go to church — not mainly, but nevertheless — because it confronts and stunts our spiritual autonomy and individualism. We should go lest we become Cainites, saying “I’m not my brother’s keeper.” Or reverse Cainites, “My brothers aren’t my keepers.”

Of course most of us prefer to worship at the First Church of Hanging Out With My Friends at The Coffee Shop. Of course the more elite of us prefer to worship at My Own Speaking Engagements Community Church. Because, we believe, we “learn better” when we’re the ones doing the talking.

But something happens when you stop submitting to the communal listening of congregational worship and start filling the air with your own free range spiritual rhetoric. Your talk of God starts to sound less like God. He starts sounding like an idea, a theory, a concept. He stops sounding like the God of the Bible, the God who commands and demands, the God who is love but also holy, gracious but also just, et cetera. He begins to sound less like the God “who is who he is” and more like the God who is as you like him.

In his sermon on Genesis 3, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones details the origin of sin in human history, the deceit resulting from the question, “Did God actually say…?”, he talks about the fellow who talks about God with his hands in his pockets and a cigarette in his mouth. I don’t think he means at all to say one could not speak rightly about God in casual clothes or even in a casual position, but he means to say that the fellow could easily be speaking about the weather or politics or the local sports team. There is no evident reverence. “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth blog about how cool he is with, you know, whatever your deal is, man.”

Awe and reverence. Authority and submission. Proclamation and supplication. Command and obedience. We fear these dynamics because we fear losing our selves, but we know what Jesus said to do to find yourself. If what Jesus says is true, maybe saving reverence for God is lost in the refusal to put one’s self in positions of difficulty, vulnerability, self-denial. Maybe seeking to find our own true path away from the “stifling confines” of the “traditional church” has actually taken us out of the garden of worship and into the wilderness, right into the rubble of Babel in fact.

What you talk about when you talk about God outside the self-denial and obedience God calls us to doesn’t sound like God. It sounds like your god is you.

In Nehemiah 8, “all the people gathered as one man,” it says (v.1), to hear Ezra preach. One guy doing the talking. And he essentially just read them the Law. While they stood there in the morning sun. For about a four-hour sermon reading. So if you think your church service is long and stifling, keep Nehemiah 8 in mind.

Nehemiah 8:3 says that “the ears of all the people were attentive.” I suppose this would include those whose spiritual learning styles were more wired for dialogue or, I guess, whitewater rafting or whatever. But they were a people who valued “Thus saith the Lord,” who thought “Thus saith the Lord” might be vital for them to hear and that being quiet could help them hear it. And the response to the sermon is telling. Verse 9 tells us they wept when they heard the Law. They didn’t object; they didn’t scoff; they didn’t cry out, “Yahweh’s not the boss of me!” (Or “You either, Ezra, acting so high and mighty up in that pulpit!”) No, they wept out of conviction, out of despair of themselves, out of reverence for “Thus saith the Lord.” When they talked about God, they did it through sobs.

But Ezra tells them to stop crying, to go home and feast (v.9). He tells them to eat fatty foods and drink wine and to share those things with others. See, God is not withholding such joys from us. He doesn’t want us out of the coffee shops or the pubs or wherever else it is we suppose we’d rather be than hearing “thus saith the Lord” from some religious spokesperson. He simply wants us there through the cross.

The truth is we need “thus saith the Lord.” We need to talk like God owns us when we talk about God. Even like he owes us wrath. Otherwise all of our talk of grace and mercy and freedom and finding ourselves and whatever else will keep ringing more and more hollow. The people listening to Ezra needed the terror from the declaration of the holy righteousness of God which is damning to get to the boundless joys of the proclamation of the holy righteousness of Christ which is saving. And when you think about what Christ willingly went through to deliver us, losing our autonomy and personal platform in the mess and discomfort of the parts of life in his Body we most want to avoid doesn’t seem like such a huge price to pay.

If your local church is doing things right, it will be seeking to provide a spiritual environment for your growth predicated on God’s terms — which is to say, not yours. Let’s not neglect to approach that holy ground, and take our shoes off in reverence when we get there, even if it means shoving one of them in our mouths.


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28 thoughts on “What We Talk Like When We Talk About God”

  1. David Denis says:

    I have been folding the whole Donald Miller church thing over in my mind and trying to parse out how I would answer such silliness. You, my friend, have driven the 16 penny nail flush in one strike.

    Thanks for the clarity.

  2. Arthur Sido says:

    “You know, the Hebrews where we’re told not to forsake the regular worship assembly and the Acts where we’re told the church gathered regularly in devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to hear a guy preach”

    Well not really.

    The oft quoted passage in Hebrews, 10:25, says we are to gather together for the purpose of encouraging one another and “stir up one another to love and good works”. Notice it is “one another” not “one and all the others watch”. That is one of the most commonly cited passages to guilt people into “going to church” and it actually says nothing at all about weekly attendance at a religious event. The church as we are taught in Acts 2:46 lived their lives together “daily”, not once a week at a mandatory religious meeting.

    As far as the passages in Acts you obliquely reference. Acts 2:42 does speak of devotion to the apostles’ teaching but it is a huge leap to pluck that one phrase and impose our prepared monologue called the sermon onto it. Did they have specific periods of sermon type teaching? Maybe but we are not told that here or anywhere else. We also see that they were at the same time breaking bread together, i.e. having a meal as the church, fellowshipping, which means more than shaking hands as we scamper out to the parking lot, and prayers, presumably not just one guy praying while everyone else bows their head.

    The reference to Acts 20 is grossly misleading. We don’t have to guess what was happening, we are told in Acts 20:7 why the church gathered. It was not for a sermon (or “preaching”). It was to break bread. THAT was why they gathered and to miss that is either extremely poor exegesis or intentionally inaccurate. Defenders of the cultural religious status quo often paint this as Paul delivering a prepared monologue sermon but it is more consistent with the text to see Paul having a conversation with the church rather than imagining him standing behind a pulpit with his outline in Powerpoint projected on the wall behind him. Certainly he lead the conversation as an apostle but to assume that he was the sole speaker who delivered a sermon all night is borderline silly.

    It is also instructive that where you are not misquoting the New Testament, you turn to the Old. Trying to force Old Covenant practices on a New Covenant church has been the cause of all sorts of mischief through the ages (i.e the Roman Catholic Church). If you are going to defend the mandatory weekly meeting at least try to use verses in context and focus on the recorded practices and commands of the church.

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Arthur, I stand by the use of those passages. In your interpretation, it’s an either/or scenario. In mine, it is not. The church’s gathering is both to hear the word proclaimed and to encourage one another. I don’t know why the opponents of preaching (and congregational singing) want to make such a false dichotomy, but it’s not warranted by the texts. If anything, your take takes the parts of the early church gathering descriptions you like and leaves what you don’t. In mine, we take all of the instruction seriously. So in our church gathering, for instance, we have time set aside to share testimonies and prayer requests and the like.

      And the fact that the early church were doing life-on-life throughout the week did not negate that they also gathered as a body once a week for corporate worship of the kind described. Again, it’s not either/or. The Acts 20 passage bears that out. They gathered to break bread. And to hear Paul preach.

      My position takes the verses in context to embrace the whole of the Bible’s pattern for communal worship. Your position picks and chooses.

      1. x says:

        To the Acts 2:42 discussion, the emphasis is on the devotion to the Apostle’s teaching, period. The text does not in any way put on equal footing the idea of “breaking bread” with devotion to teaching. Further, the word for teaching used is didache, which from the context implies that it was the oral teaching of the Apostle’s for the purposes of instructing the congregation in sound doctrine, and was later written down in the form of the New Testament. The fact that it is the first thing written down speaks volumes. Also, the fact that it is THE predominant theme of “how to do church” in the New Testament, especially when we come to the pastoral epistles, is indicative of the primacy of the teaching of sound doctrine.

        So, the picture painted in Acts 2 is that of the group of believers that is gathered at the feet of the Apostles listening intently as they expound the truths of the Old Testament to them in light of Christ’s New Covenant. Further, it’s the primary duty of elders; if this isn’t THE main thing in corporate worship, then the Biblical role of elder is greatly diminished…

  3. Good post. Thanks for sharing. I love the local and the church should care for us spiritually how God defines it.

    Good post.

    -Justin

  4. Derrick says:

    Jared,

    What I found most unsettling about DM’s recent blog post has nothing to do with him not going to a traditional church (read: evangelical church). But rather, his post-modern epistemology and reasoning is troubling to me (which you hit on as well). I found nothing in his post to be enlightening, rather it seemed that he was just clearing his conscience and letting his readers know ‘do what feels best.’ Now I don’t read DM, nor have I read any of his work – so it seems that I’m not the audience he is speaking to because I don’t care too much for ecclesiological musings detached from exegesis or church history. Question tradition all day long, vet every part of your conscious, conclude what you will and bind yourself to those convictions. (Hey I think the guy who sparked the protestant reformation did this…) But when you’re concluding that pantheism is a decent alternative to church as we know it today. Please… Just please back it up with more than crafty/relatable writing and empty words.

    I’ll listen very carefully and intently to anyone who bases their arguments/thoughts/reasons with the bible and history… Whether they agree with my theological leanings or not. A lot of people I disagree with have caused me to wrestle with the God of the Bible many times. But only when they press me to go back to the Word of God (whether saying it directly or indirectly), and not to look to some inner light as some sort of compass that dictates my worldview.

    My two cents.

  5. Andy B says:

    I agree with the main point about church not being about personal preference, but the backing you use isn’t terribly helpful. You seems to conflate being part of a church with being part of a modern American church with hefty teaching time and one central Bible-interpreter in the middle who claims authority (this comes from a pastor of a church organized in the way described). Nehemiah 8 was not a good exegetical move in backing up that point. While Ezra read the Law (not preached, just read), there were 13 Levites in the crowd doing the interpretive work (at the very least translating, but the phraseology seems to go deeper) with the people (Nehemiah 8:7). Similarly, the next day is spent with less people reading and interpreting together (8:13). Is this less of a worship service? Donald Miller’s point goes supported rather than challenged by this post- Christians cannot allow current cultural paradigms to rule what church is supposed to be.

    As a second note, how is it helpful to the conversation to degrade Donald Miller as a narcissist outside the authority of God? You could have written “I am right and Miller is wrong” without sacrificing your argument. Instead, you opted for “I am right and Miller is evil.” No points gained there.

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      You seems to conflate being part of a church with being part of a modern American church with hefty teaching time and one central Bible-interpreter in the middle who claims authority

      Andy, can you show where I’ve done this? I have used biblical references to support what I’m defending in the post. If you read more of my stuff, you will see that I’m actually quite a vocal critic of “modern American church.” In any event, that charge won’t stick based on this post alone. I’m only saying that we need the authority of the word (yes, from a preacher, but just from a preacher), and we need the weekly gathering. You don’t have to buy into Western modernist forms of evangelicalism to agree with that, and that’s certainly not my point in this article.

      Further, you said all they did in Nehemiah 8 is read. Not true. Check out verse 8. They “gave the sense,” it says, “so that everybody understood.” That’s preaching.

      I nowhere called Miller evil. But if reading it that way helps you dismiss the argument and critique, I can understand. I *am* saying that his rejection of regular church worship gathering is a placing of his personal preferences — he said as much — over this vital part of body life.

      1. Andy B says:

        Point 1: Conflation of the Church and the modern American expression of Church. I don’t think you do so all the time. I am sure that you are not a straw man who can easily be put into a box. Your argument, however, did. You gave Biblical allusions in Acts, which could have expressed themselves in many ways. Yes, everyone was devoted to the apostles’ teachings. How? Did it look the same everywhere? Or does it look like preaching because that is what you are used to? Paul did preach in services. How else did it look? What did proclamation look like? In rabbinical situations, it was far more interactive. Tough call to take those narrative details and string out a theology of proclamation. (BTW, embarrassing use of “You seems” was me copying and pasting the note to your blog from a comment on a friend’s facebook page. It is not a sign that I didn’t reflect on your thoughts.)

        Point 2. Nehemiah’s worship service. I never said there was no proclamation and explanation. In fact, my comment directly states that there was comment. All I said is that it didn’t necessarily come from “the guy in the middle,” but a group. I eve ceded that the Levites may have only been there for translation.

        Point 3. Your assertion that I attacked your method so that I could “dismiss the argument and critique.” Dude. Seriously. I told you that I agree that local church participation keeps us from the temptation of personal preferences. My issue isn’t with your main point, it’s with your exegesis and comparison between Echo/Narcissus and Donald Miller. I didn’t think the second was necessary to fuel your argument.

        Point 4: Calling Miller evil. I will cede a degree of exaggeration. I was quoting a sentiment I use often in conversation. Since you don’t know me, the idiom would be unfamiliar. I apologize for sloppy language use. Please forgive me. I will however stand on the fact that you compared his action to idolatry and compared him with the mythological embodiment of pride. Idolatry is evil. Pride is evil. Having given no space for him to actually be wrestling with real issues, I find it difficult to see a redemptive arc to your characterization of Miller.

        Hopefully my response gives you some clarity on my main post. Thank you for a quick response.

  6. Jon says:

    Great post! I wonder why there is such a push back against “traditional” church. There is a Biblical and historical presidente for the single speaker. Peter gave two sermons, and Paul when on His missions trips was the primary teacher, although he had people helping him. Also in Acts the apostles appointed seven men to deal with task not related to administration of the word, implying that the original eleven were the primary teachers in the Church in Jerusalem, Peter traditionally considered the head of the eleven. There are others in the Bible, but these are the ones that come to mind first, especially considering many of the arguments against “traditional” Church arise from interpretations of Acts.

    1. Andy B says:

      Jon,

      I saw your comment because it somehow linked to mine. There is precedent and historical justification for a single speaker model. However, justification does not necessarily mean exclusive justification. In other words, the model being valid doesn’t make it the only valid model. The single speaker model worked well in Acts because, frankly, there weren’t too many people who had spent years with Jesus at that point. By the time we get to the epistles, we have a variety of models at work. In Corinth, people were sharing based on gifts (1 Cor 14). They actually had to come up with a system to organize the group sharing. By the time we get to Timothy and Titus, we have groups of elders who teach in some format, although we do not know if it is a single speaker model or not. Cultural context gave weight for certain forms of communication, such as Paul’s message on the Aeropagus. That does not mean that those contexts need to dictate ours.

      Some pushback is against the model itself, and that could be valid. More of the pushback I have is about the exclusivity of the model.

      1. Jon Dommel says:

        Andy,
        Yes, I understand that there are different historical models of how to conduct church. My point was that I don’t understand the pushback against the single speaker method, specifically because there are biblical and historical traditions that support it as being one correct, and useful way to do it. In Acts it also talks if the believers meeting together daily, I have never been apart of a traditional church that gets this right. That being said I have never been a part of a non traditional church that gets it right either. In my experiance, non traditional churches have as many issues as traditional, not that they are bad! But we need to stop assuming that our way is better (as long as we can suppot it Biblically). Not forsaking the fellowship is simply that. Many in my generation have left traditional church for a non traditional one, and eventually left because of the same dissalutionment.

  7. Hi,
    Good writing… You got it together in a very clean and understandable manner. Yes, the god of self is predominate and rejection of authority based on pride.Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. I can’t imagine growing spiritually without a gospel believing church. Where else do you go?

  8. Andrey says:

    Excellent and much needed words for today. Without properly understanding what the NT teaches about life in the church, the christian is crippled from growing in the immense blessings of life in the gospel. I think its important to point out that EVERY epistle in the NT is addressed to churches. All the “one anothers” of the NT are addressed to congregations. All the commands that we are given, all the theology that we are taught by the apostles is taught and applied in the context of the churches. According to Ephesians our amazing inheritance is “in the saints” (1:18) and our christian growth is linked to our growth “in the body” (2:21)

    When God draws a people to himself, he always draws them to one another at the same time. This is such a critical truth for christians to see in our time because without a proper understanding of our lives in the church, we don’t have a proper context in which to grow and understand the gospel.

  9. frank pontillo says:

    We are exhorted by Paul to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. Now if we consider this the word of God then the church should be full of persons speaking the mind of God to one another. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. A healthy church will not rely on one man or worship one man as a pope or special saint. The article seemed to quote scriptures out of context to try to make his point. The temple of God is not the building where Christians gather. The temple of God is in us all individually and we are all priests unto God. I know that many churches revere the building as somehow being holy and they view the pulpit as going behind the veil but we live in the NEW covenant. This is a great benefit and we should understand all that that benefit encompasses. People throw terms around like worship service which is not used in the New Testament. we are all to gather and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. This is everybody not just the preacher.

  10. LostThePlot says:

    “If your local church is doing things right, it will be seeking to provide a spiritual environment for your growth predicated on God’s terms — which is to say, not yours.”

    So many North American Bible-teaching churches today are striving (altruistically, selfishly, and every shade of motivation in between) to attract more and more attendees to their gatherings. Too often the methodologies used to communicate God’s great story that’s being completed in Christ Jesus, reinforce our inbred self-love in the name of ministry. It’s as if the Gospel is the greatest self-help program ever discovered: a wonderful plan for your life now, with your finest retirement package ever yet to come!

    So I ask, can you point me to some local churches “doing things right,” clearly communicating God’s terms of death to self and sacrificial Christian apprenticeship? Wouldn’t these congregations necessarily be shrinking, since Jesus spoken of a broad way that many find and a narrow way found by just a few? I’m way too familiar with churches paying lip service to these quintessential elements of the faith, but at the same time working hard to keep it all attractive to their largely narcissistic demographic. I’m struggling to find an alternative expression in practice and not just in theory.

  11. Timothy Buck says:

    “Church Services”
    Where did that term come from? Sounds like a business providing a service. That certainly isn’t a New Testament expression.

  12. Deon Lieberum says:

    Dear Jared C. Wilson

    I’m not sure if I read your dialogue correctly, but it seems that you have a problem with people that have chosen to leave traditional organizational churches to embrace community living. While I am aware that there are many who have made this move for wrong reasons, I am also aware that many have made a legitimate decision to forsake organizational congregations for the right reasons. The scriptures being quoted here are easily applied to communities meeting in homes and make much more sense when comparing with the practice of the early church.

    Your references to Frank Viola (and others) is unreasonably inflammatory as these comments by Mr Viola have context. When he refers to the church(organization) he is by no means referring to the body of Christ and you might find that men like this even recognize the Body within the organizational walls.

    My response is not to banter over your article, but rather an appeal to you to consider researching thoroughly and even taking part in the community life of this kind people before trying to convince people how wrong this WAY is. You might find that you are mistaken?

    Lastly, if we are truly of the community of Christ inside or outside organizational walls, we should be seeking common ground and not shooting each other down – don’t you agree?

    PS: Community is a more accurate translation of “ekklēsia” why don’t we use english?

  13. a. says:

    thank you.

    and ..the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul..
    and ..abundant grace was upon them all. Acts 4:32
    and ..let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another;
    and ..all the more as you see the day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25

  14. Laurie says:

    Although I say this with love and respect, I’m sorry to say that I find this article disappointing. I wish it was whittled down to the last two paragraphs, and that the “whatever else” mentioned in the next to the last paragraph included tradition. We all need to honestly confess that we share a propensity to “A self-indulgent love of our own voices and preferring of them above all others.” I know that I do. Jared, in these comments, some biblical, thoughtful points have been made pointing out flaws in the way your arguments are presented. I’m praying that you will hear them humbly, without the filter of defensiveness, and with the idea of sola scriptura rather than tradition being the priority.

  15. Timothy Buck says:

    OK, here is a question.

    We have 3 passages that mention daily meetings in the early church:

    1. Act_5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
    2. Act_17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
    3. Heb_3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

    The first two of those three would seem to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. But the last one seems to be a command. Was that command only for the early church? Does it still apply to us? And if so, how does it work in your church?

  16. Ashley says:

    Jared, this was a thought-provoking post. I do think that all of us have an innate tendancy to shove God into the clothes we wish He’d wear so that we can worship someone who looks just a little more like the parts of ourselves we most admire. I know I do. The reminder is humbling, and helpful. Sincerely, thank you. That said, I need to clear the air about one concern that this post raises for me. I’ll be the first to admit that I might be wrong (I hope I am), but I really can’t help but hear a thread of sarcasm and dismissiveness toward Miller and his thoughts running throughout this entry, which bothers me. Here’s why. For years now I’ve been running into people who make arguments that sound a lot like DM’s, or who attend the First Church of Hanging Out With My Friends at the Coffee Shop. And they often have something in common. At some point in their lives, they did what you said. They showed up at church. They submitted to authority. They drowned their voice, for a time, in the communal voice, and somewhere in all of that submitting, they got wounded. In fact, if you listen closely to people like this and you get below the defensiveness of the triple-down, you almost always find pain. A lot of it. This doesn’t make their arguments right, but it does suggest that sarcasm and dismissiveness will only drive them further from the community where they need to be… Just a reminder that all of us are capable of speaking the truth in love, and that sometimes the most firmly entrenched rhetorical opponents need more love than we think. Thank you, again, for your post. I hope you’ll hear my thoughts as what they are–just loving concerns, not argumentative curmudgeonliness. :)

  17. LostThePlot says:

    So much of what I currently observe in the North American evangelical church tends to be catering to the consumer of religious goods and services and not someone striving to live a life of sacrifice and “death to self” as an apprentice of Jesus . So in an earlier comment I asked if anyone could recommend a current local church “doing things right, providing a spiritual environment for your growth predicated on God’s terms — which is to say, not yours.” To date no one has replied, so I’m asking again. If no one else, Jared, would you say the church you are leading could be described in this way and why? What are your best practices? Please feel free to reply privately if you would like.

  18. RichInChrist says:

    You know Jared, that we all struggle with “stuff” at whatever church we choose to attend. What I hear when I read your epistle, is “If you go to a good church, you won’t struggle… as much.” I agree with your argument, but I don’t care for the spirit in which it was offered.

    While in my own blog post, I detail my response to Donald Miller’s post – in which I don’t advocate pulling up stakes and walking away from the organized church, I really appreciate Donald’s honesty in sharing his own experience. And in truth, it makes me angry when others describe his experience and his honesty as silly, or invalid.

    You are a pastor and author and I don’t know you from Adam, as the expression goes. But your perspective as the Elder or Bishop or whatever your church calls the biblical office you hold, your perspective is that of the Shepherd. You cannot help but see some of us who don’t benefit from the experience of organized church as “stray lambs”. You seem concerned that Donald’s post will encourage people to do like him. It’s a valid concern – but arguing with logic from scripture will not change how they feel about church. Calling sinners selfish is kinda redundant. We’re all sinners, and we’re all selfish. If you really want to “convince” them – you have to appeal from a different angle. You can’t appeal to leaders (not church leaders, but people who lead things outside of church) with the same argument that you appeal to sheep.

    I have a different perspective. I am a sinner. I am a leader in areas outside of the church domain. I am a Christian who may never be a church member again, because in most of the evangelical churches I have been attending since I was saved in 1985 – I no longer realize value from membership. I don’t have a vertical perspective at church. The church was not designed for people with strong leadership tendencies. It was designed for sheep.

    When anyone can explain to me why on the main street by my house within 2 miles of where I live in suburban Chicago there are 7 Churches with 7 Congregations and how the Bible supports that pattern, I will pay attention to what anyone says about how or why we should all attend a local church.

    Do I attend, sure. I attend. I attend a church that is 6 miles from home, because I don’t “like” any of the congregations that are closer. My liking of a church is just as self-centered as any decision to not attend. I have come to grips with that. Making church “appealing” has become a sport. It encourages selfism.

    I attend a small congregation that struggles, one that isn’t very appealing. I like the church because the pastor is flawed and not trying to impress anyone. It is an honest place that I can be flawed as well. I attend because I need to be reminded of my own right positional relationship with God – that is He is Lord and I am His subject. To date, I have found no better way to get that reminder than to be part of the assembly.

    But that doesn’t mean that I particularly like the assembly politic, or the fact that “The Church” has devolved into a bunch of churches.

    As a leader, nothing frustrates me more, than watching the stewards of God’s Church use God’s resources ineffectively, replicating the practices (building facilities and programs devoted to what?) of those who went before them, without contemplating the mission in large.

    Sorry for my long rambling post.

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

Jared C. Wilson's Books