96: Evangelizing a Church?

In this episode John and Gregg continue from last week’s podcast by resuming their conversation concerning Dan Dailey’s blog post titled “Sin of forsaking fellowship.”

Gregg notes, concerning his comment about being obligated to attend church in last week’s podcast, that this is, more accurately, an obligation to love others “rightly” (i.e., even as one loves oneself). And we best manifest this by offering to those in need. Particularly, where we are in a position to offer to other Christians this is an opportunity to follow the example of Jesus, as noted in John’s epistles, where Christians distinguish themselves on the basis of how they love each other.

John remains skeptical, however, that this sort of engagement must happen in a church. Gregg demurs: it is neither a magical process nor one that must happen at a church, rather it is one that is most likely to happen in church because, ironically, this is where those most “in need” are most likely to be found. So Gregg notes that, at least at the end of Dan Dailey’s blog post, that Dan describes regularly experiencing a gathering of fellow Christians that is a flourishing, authentic, and thriving environment.

In Gregg’s view this is something that many people in churches need, and that could revolutionize churches. Gregg also explains that he would only stop attending church “permanently” if either there was no benefit in attending or no need to attend. Yet he sees neither of these to be the case. So Gregg argues that, while Dan is not exactly espousing this, where church is essentially a negative situation and someone has the resources to assist these church goers, yet insists that they “figure matters out for themselves” without assisting in the ways that they can, this is not a Christian perspective.

Instead, Gregg argues that if love and truth / truth and love are prevalent within one’s environment then every other human being needs to be exposed to / benefit from this environment, and that the co-centrality of love and truth is a hallmark of a functional church. So Gregg posits that by embodying this environment in teaching others to seek and perpetuate these ways of being, we may in fact be taking Christianity to a church. This constitutes the phenomenon of “false religion” dominating a particular church, such that there then may be the need for prophetic intervention.

So Gregg wonders if Dan and his group in fact have something that is much more real, more true, and much more “in touch” with what the gospels are aiming at than the churches around him. Yet John counters: given that Gregg has attended a number of churches, what are the criteria of the Gregg would apply to deciding when to stay and when to leave a given church?

Gregg explains that the importance of having a community when going to a church is important even though, ironically, people typically go to a church to find such a community. In his opinion, having some form of a community at the outset—when first attending a church—would make a big difference. John sees the value of this but doubts that he would have sufficient resilience to continue questioning if he were at church. Yet Gregg reframes: what if John was not alone in pushing certain questions? What if, in other words, John didn’t always have to be “that guy” asking the hard questions?

Gregg contends that there is typically too much power in churches that is centralized with the minister / pastor. When this distribution of power “works” the church can function very well, such as in the church the Gregg is currently attending. John wonders: what ingredients make such a church “work”?

In Gregg’s situation, the church that he attends is filled with artists, including professional musicians and ticketed actors. Further, this church is located in a hamlet that is, unusually, home to theatre school, and their focus is on helping students “find their voice.” In other words, in this community one’s distinctiveness, creativity, and an awareness of one’s individuality are highly valued and promoted.

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