About mid way through the school year I began down a road of discovery. I have always been at odds with the Church. I was raised in a Catholic church and rebelled daily at the thought of having to sit through another boring puplit preformance with the stainglass window as the backdrop for the play. Even as a youngster I could see that the people who strolled into church on sunday mornings strolled out the same way they came, not to mention none of their lives reflected the message I was hearing. I can't remember meeting real Christian, (someone recklessly following the Jesus of the scriptures) until I was a freshmen in high school. More than anything the God I heard about in Catholic church never had any relevance to my life or the life I was witnessing all around me.
Maybe you remember the controversy with Catholic priests and malestation and other accustions of sexual activity. Well, when my mom and I began to recongnie the names of the accused and it eventually ended up being our pastor, we decided it was time to leave the Catholic Church.
I remeber people telling me about this vineyard church where people wore jeans, Bengals jerseys, and drank coffee at church. They even played the guitar and other contemporary methods of worship that were to say the least foreign in the context of having to do with God.
The first time I walked into the Vineyard church I wasnt really a Christian, I thought I was, but I had no idea what it really meant to give yourself to the creator. Even still, I remeber my stomach turning over and mind spinning in circles as I was overtaken by the massive stage, 3,000 people and the two stories of auditorium style seating. I had grown up growing to Broadway shows so when I sat down for the first time in this praticular theatre I was anticipating the overture and curtains opening to familiar characters like Elphaba or the Jets. Instead, the curtains symbolically opened and a cool, hip, intellegent, white guy, with sliver hair told me about this Jesus guy that came to preach good news to the poor, give freedom to the imprisones, sight to the blind, and relase the oppressed. Like I said even then, as a very young milk drinking follower I knew this was contradictory to the comfy seat I was sitting on, the incredible amount of light and sound equipment, and the multi million dollar performance hall that was erected in Jesus' name. I knew this is not how Jesus envisioned Church. It couldn't be; the scriptures and my experience of who Jesus was told me otherwise.
Fast forward to my Freshmen year of college. I began to attend a Church that was the best I had come across in my short 20 years in this body. It had all the aspects that I thought were important: the worship was great, the preacher spoke gospel truth, they were socially minded as well, and so on and so on. Yet, I noticed that hundreds poured into the church for the wrong reasons, myself included. We all came to get filled up. Filled up by the powerful preaching and moving worship. I have come to realize that church is not a place to come and get "filled up" so that you can make it through your week (If you are interested ask me personally to find out what I see it as). People were coming because of the pastor, not so much to experience Jesus. It was not a community, at least not for me, for many it is, but for the majority of people we came and we left. That is not how church was meant to be.
This semester I began to enlightened by a man named Frank Viola. He is controversial, dramatic, radical, humorous, and most of all is totally utterly in love with the creator and absolutely possessed with advancing the Church closer to how God dreams it should be and how the Bible actually tells us it should be. Since, I began this discovery I have lost friends, well thats dramatic, got in serious discussion and turned many heads over what I have been convicted to believe about the Church. I have not been able to attend Church much at all, the institution, the structure, and the hierarchy weigh so heavy on my heart that I know I would not be able to see past it.
Listen the Church can be a wonderful thing and it has and is being used by God to make his glory reality.
But listen, truly ask yourself if you are completely 100% satisfied with Church. I can't but ask myself constantly about the churches I were apart of: "Is this it? because if so then I want out."
Frank Viola and the three books I have read have helped me to completely reimagine Church and tap into the possibilities of living under the complete headship of Jesus.
He does not have all the answers, but I am convinced the spirit is working in him to bring back the Church of the first apostles and bring it closer to how God envisions the community of believers interacting.
I beg of you, if you are at all disenchanted with the church and find yourself asking "is this it?" look into Frank Viola and his literature.
Tomorrow, I will be posting responses to questions that I was fortunate enough to ask Frank Viola about his new book From Eternity to Here. So stay tuned and tell your friends.