Turning From the Old and Creating the New Church


This week I joined a local group in which I relished an invitation. For the last year and a half I have almost weekly frequented a business in front of an architect studio.  Diana is an artist that shares this space with her boyfriend Joe. I first met Joe, an architect when I was running a booth for a local store at the Chattanooga craft market and loved the humor that the three of us shared.  Even deeper we shared a passion for art that was not professional but sharing the latest discovery.

Since Studio Space Junk is primarily a photography store I have become immersed in the analog understanding of taking a photo. I have experimented with a multitude of instant cameras and have two Polaroids that are now my go to cameras. I share pictures, ideas and junk store finds. I have found a deep well of encouragement and critique for my budding photography.

Diana has in the past expressed her frustration in having to run a business, caring for a child and maintain the freedom to create art. So, last week she invited a few of her artistically minded friends to gather for an: Art Support Group.

The first meeting was amazing. Ideas seemed to come from outer space. We decided that we needed homework and a large scale project. This week’s home work was worked out organically and through consensus.  I am excited about the possibilities.

Our first project is that each of us can find art materials for no more than $10 from thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, dumpster diving and auctions. We will wrap this material in a Christmas package and then draw for the box of the material we will use to make art.

Doing this has made me interested in the creativity it takes to create something new and the support that is needed in such an endeavor. As the evangelist for East Tennessee Presbytery I find that the church often stunts this process as a whole. I have constantly asked myself why? I think I have a few beginning suggestions.

Institutional Continuity: The assumption is that what we have at this moment is what has made us the great church we are. Being faithful to following Christ is subsumed by grasping onto things that only appear to give life. Money, organization, order, manners, agreement, authority, programs or purity are not what makes us a good church. The idea of creativity is the idea of testing new things with an understanding it may not work, but evaluating it and then attempting something new again.  We should say in the church that anything new has the caveat, “Failure is not an option!” Creativity is stifled in an environment of an always successful performance.

Control: Beyond the obvious antiquated control mechanisms our churches have developed to make us “good stewards” there are a bevy of clergy and laity steeped in the idea that anything new is a threat. It is a threat to the money we have hoarded, it is a threat to orthodoxy, it is a threat to giving away power. We can not control the Spirit and in that Spirit we find life. It is sad to see so many people negative in the face of the new possibilities of faith and revelation.

Competition:  This is the most nefarious in the church. When many people argue theology in the church its is merely a crass competition. It has little to do with with real theological debate and more to do with anger, distrust and fear. Instead of using each other to grasp our existence we often believe our glass is much less dark than the next. We are derisive, petty and spiteful. This disunity leads to schism, abuse and church violence against the faithful. We need to be prophetic, but always with an eye for redemption and love. Too many care little about the other and only care about their little territory of truth. This is an area that I am constantly working personally.

There are glorious opportunities for the church if we are not led by our deepest fears. Fears of irrelevancy, insolvency, illusionary orthodoxy, purity or losing authority. These are all things that matter little in the act of being faithful to Christ. The vital theology of the future will be non-hierachical. The church of the future will affirm the faith of the people and the place they find themselves in the world. The church of the future will be non-professional and messy. The church of the future will have transparency. It will make a lot of mistakes and will fail. This is a theology that I want to be a part of. I want our church to be as creative and challenging as the creator in whose image we are created. I do not want to be in rooms with aging white men and women worried about a future while holding tight to their millions, outdated educational models, important members and crumbling limestone edifices. I love those churches, but they are a fading past, dying quicker than global warming and not the future.

Listen to the Spirit moving. It is time to not be afraid, but to fear the Lord. Fear the day we will have to account for our lives and the faith we claim to hold. It is an exciting time for those of us who don’t like nets, but a terrifying one for those who see their world slipping away. That is the change of time. It will never be the same again, thanks be to God!


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