A church for the unchurched?

Altogether about 250 people shared their thoughts and stories about church via comments to my recent post 85 million unchurched Christians. Is that good?. Thank you again for that very precious input. Some fantastic and enriching stuff there.

So I think at this point it’s safe to say that generally speaking Christians don’t go to church because they:

  • Can’t abide the notion that being gay is in and of itself a sin.
  • Reject the idea of a loving, all-powerful God who allows people to burn in hell forever simply because they died without being Christian.
  • Don’t believe that God wants women to “submit” to their husbands or anyone else.
  • Have no interest in “evangelizing” to others.
  • When thinking enjoy employing logic and reason.
  • Do not appreciate having to leave at the door important aspects of who they are.
  • Refuse to place dogmatic legalism over compassionate charity.
  • Believe that the single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.
  • Have no interest in conforming for conformity’s sake.
  • Prefer not to be bored to death once a week for over an hour.

On the other hand, Christians do go to church because they find rewarding and valuable:

  • The timeless, stirring, and ineffable magic of communal worship.
  • Belonging to a community that cares for its own, shares core values, and is dedicated to goals that are real and important.
  • The weekly renewal and uplifting of their spirits.
  • Serving as a group the community outside of their church.
  • Structured, informed, and regular studying of the Bible.
  • Marking in communion the major events of their lives, such as births, weddings and death, through ceremonies and traditions that resonate with centuries of application.
  • Having reason to not just tolerate fellow church members with whom they might not otherwise get along, but to love them, as Christ enjoins them to do.
  • The purpose, order and structure in their lives that church brings.
  • The benefits to their children of belonging to a church community.
  • Knowing that they are part of not just the life but the history and legacy of their church.

This all brings to my mind the below, which I once wrote in response to a reader asking what I personally believe, and which has since become the founding document for an online group called Unfundamentalist Christians (group blog; Facebook page), the motto of which is, “Above all, love.”

  1. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  2. The Bible is not a contract stipulating the rules for being a Christian. It is an ancient, massive, infinitely complex tome comprising songs, visions, histories, dreams, parables, commandments, and more. Christians seeking to follow the Word of God must look to all the words of God, ever seeking within those words the spirit of Jesus Christ. This means never failing to choose love, compassion and charity over adherence to any Biblical “law” that in practice or spirit violates Christ’s Great Commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
  3. Christianity is supposed to be all about nothing more (and nothing less!) than living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility.
  4. The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word condemning natural homosexuality is more credible and persuasive than is the scholarship claiming that he did. Moreover, we remain mystified as to how any follower of Jesus could choose damning an entire population over obeying Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself.
  5. God does not want any woman automatically “submitting” to her husband or to anyone else.
  6. Using masculine pronouns to refer to God is strictly a matter of convention, a profoundly unfortunate necessity of the English language, which to date offers no satisfactory alternative. But God is neither male or female. God is both. God is all.
  7. The belief that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams is more reasonable, respectful, and compassionate than is the conviction that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God.
  8. There is no support in the Bible for the morally repugnant idea that hell is an actual place to which God sentences people to spend eternity in mortal agony.
  9. God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us.
  10. Anyone desiring to mix Church and State has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either.
  11. God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
  12. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
  13. Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But in and of itself divorce is not immoral.
  14. The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.

So now I’m curious. If you’re an unchurched Christian, and you saw the above UC tenets on the “What We Believe” page of the website of a church near you, would you visit that church? Would you consider going there?

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  • charlesmaynes

    I think you might have missed a couple big reasons people dont like church John- one, they hate the hypocritical nature of “Holy rollers”, who usually seem to base their own self image on the affliction of others- and who are the first to cast the first stone while swimming in their own ocean of sin. Also, true, Bonhoeffer styled Christian theology is based on submission- which (I think) Americans find to be a repugnant life choice which makes one a self styled victim. as the UFC mantle claims, “Above all, Love” and to love means to make ones self vulnerable- yet our culture is one of armor plate. Its a sea-change thing. And I think there is a long way to go in getting there- which also speaks to the notion of fairness- which most people really want in only a vague manner- We (as in most people I think) need mercy. And Jesus went to the Cross to provide it.

  • BarbaraR

    Yes, I would visit, and would consider joining it.

    But after a lifetime of experiences with organizations (secular/ civic /governmental/ religious), I’m more than a little cynical about how long any such group can maintain its credo before slowly losing its original purpose, diluting its manifesto, and becoming just another place with a power structure that ostracizes those who disagree with those in charge.

  • Hi, Charles. Hey, if you can figure out how to sort of basically more succinctly say what you’ve said, I’ll totally add it to the list of reasons people don’t go to church. You know what I mean? I can’t use “They hate the hypocritical nature of “Holy rollers”, who usually seem to base their own self image on the affliction of others- and who are the first to cast the first stone while swimming in their own ocean of sin…” but … something? maybe? like that?

  • jodi_3

    I think I would visit but at this point in my life I am pretty sure I would not attend any church on a regular basis. So many aspects of organized religion still have a way of bringing on near panic attack reactions. It also brings up a bitterness I have not completely dealt with.

  • Richard

    Do tell me more about this “community that cares for its own”. I’m asking because I’ve never observed such a thing in the wild. Unless your issue happens to fit the script (funerals provided on demand, for example).

  • StaciaR

    Exactly all this

  • Jill

    People are of course people– we have our weaknesses along with our strengths. I do believe what you are suggesting is quite possible though. I think when people are asked to show up authentically it can most certainly happen. As with everything, through guidance and support.

    Frankly a dose of cognitive behavioral therapy, guiding people how to treat others, mixed into some spiritual curriculum wouldn’t go amiss in such a church setting. My two cents.

  • Jill

    You’re definitely not alone in that, Jodi. Peace to you.

  • 2TrakMind

    I would visit a church like this, but to me, it’s less about what is on a churches “What we believe” page and more about whether that group of people is actually learning to BE the church. I don’t really care what they say they believe; I care what the outworking of that belief is in that body.

    Personally, I left the weekly gathering, because the method churches employ to lead people into a relationship with Christ don’t work. All the programs, activities, services, small group Bible studies, blah, blah, blah can be enjoyable and people love them, but they don’t result in what God wants for us and from us; a relationship. I believe the things you listed are all symptoms of the real problem. Instead of learning to engage Jesus in relationship, we’ve substituted a system of programs and activities, to fulfill our desire to feel connected to God. Fortunately, or unfortunately, people are done with this artificial expression of church are are venturing out in search of what their heart is longing for.

  • charlesmaynes

    John, as you are painfully aware, I am an inarticulate writer- but let me try to re-word it-

    We disapprove of people who posture themselves as “holy” or “proper” in their Christian walk judging others who don’t meet their metric for what a “Christian” is supposed to be. Jesus doesnt need bodyguards, or gatekeepers. If someone honestly seeks, they should be honestly loved, without regard to their past and or present. Matt 19:4 sums it up…. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

    I dont know if thats much better, but I tried…..

    actually I do like this- “your Sunday’s best is speaking to your heart- not your wardrobe”.

  • Kimberly Paine

    This is exactly the church I would want to go to.

  • Matt

    Those tenets are fantastic; I can find nothing that I disagree with. I would not go simply because I’m taking a break from church. Were I more rested, I would be there in a heartbeat.

  • Andy

    I don’t go to church for all the reasons you listed. I might consider visiting if I saw such a church, but I’m not sure I’d go on a regular basis. I enjoy sleeping in and being lazy on Sunday, and I don’t take kindly to being guilted into going to church. While I think I’ve been pretty fortunate in that the churches I’ve attended in my life (mostly Episcopal) have preached love and not hate (I don’t ever remember hearing a sermon mentioning the clobber passages, for example), I rarely felt the spiritual uplifting I think some others did. I don’t always read the bible, but when I do, I prefer to do it on my time and in my way.

  • Michael Brian Woywood

    A good friend and I were just discussing the phenomena of Christian Privilege in America, and how we wish there were some way to describe ourselves that would 1) Affirm our commitment to following Jesus; and 2) Distance ourselves from the mess that much of American Christianity has become. We came up with the idea for the “Church of the Wayfarer”, the name coming from the Way of Jesus, and taking as an unofficial motto, “Not all who wander are lost.”

    I’m a dedicated Methodist, and I think that we aspire to the ideals of respecting each person’s journey and loving people into the Kingdom. But, with all the baggage attached to being a Christian in America, I sometimes wonder if it’s time for a fresh start.

  • sherri

    I would consider visiting. I still can’t swallow #1. I think the divine lives in each of us, including but not exclusively the historical Jesus.

  • Lance Schmidt

    Thanks for this thought provoking post. It has left me with mixed feelings and lot to sort through.

    What does resonate is that Christian life is about relationship and that as much as I enjoy awe, mystery and other positive emotional experiences that church can provide, the real crux of my Christian experience is how I show up in the nitty-gritty of daily life and in my interactions with humanity.

    The parts I have mixed feelings about are your thoughts on the methods of the church, although I suspect that at the end we both are saying the same thing just with a different frame of reference. My own experience is that I continue to grow and be transformed through an interplay of church life, personal spiritual practices and “best effort” attempts at real-life application. To me they are all part of a cycle that feed into and reinforce each other. My spiritual awakening happened in a random church service where as an atheist I agreed to accompany a friend so as not to let her down. For a while that was all I did – just went to church and looking back now went through an “emotional” transformation. Slowly over time the things that I heard and experienced in church started to inform my life outside of church and I began to add in personal spiritual practices, and to the point of your post that is where I started to experience Christianity in a very personal and powerful way took me beyond emotional transformation and into spiritual transformation which is where I found my day to day interactions were being transformed in the way I acted and reacted to life and humanity.

    I’m rambling now, so I should shut down. The point I’m heading to is that I’m at a point now where my own personal experience of Christianity informs how I “do church”. I don’t see church as a place where I go to become spiritual or to feel connected with God but rather it is a corporate, communal and public expression of my own personal relationship with God. I still experience joy, mystery, wonder, awe and connection at church but for me that has become not the goal but rather a blessing of my Christian experience.

    I’m not sure the church’s methods are wrong – I think it may have more to do with how people perceive them or choose to use them, i.e. is it an end goal in and of itself or is it rather a tool?


  • Celeste Rothstein

    I went to a church very similar to the one you described. I left because, first, it was a small church, with few parishioners and little money, so the parishioners who were willing to get involved and pitch in (I was one) were constantly being called on to do more, more, more. I got burnt out.
    Second, just because the tenets of your church are about kindness, forgiveness, inclusivity and spreading God’s love doesn’t mean that people stop being human — and some humans are just plain mean. Couple that with reason #1, and there just doesn’t seem to be much reason to stay.
    I have a feeling that there are a lot of people who prefer to believe in a God that punishes others who don’t think like they do, and feel quite justified in judging them. How else does one explain mega-churches?

  • Elizabeth Parkinson

    Yes, if I could find one. Where I go now isn’t like that, although it is ok-ish

  • Maria Jones


  • nadineharris

    You describe exactly how I feel. I revere Jesus’ teachings; he was a major prophet. But no, I don’t believe he was actually God.

  • lymis

    How about, “Distaste for people who claim to be moral paragons, while judging others for far lesser issues than they give themselves a pass for?”

    Or, gosh, how about, “Dislike of people who manage to see the specks in others’ eyes while ignoring the planks in their own?” Somebody or other said something like that once, if I recall.

  • Merrydew

    The ideals are great, the drive behind them is fantastic but I would still remain “unchurched”. We are the church, not some building or organization. Every time some one “builds a church” they are denying the freedom required to be “the church”. People, usually elders/deacons or the pastor himself, take over and the church started with great ideals turns into a place that is ruled over by people who consider themselves ‘in charge’ and it becomes nothing more than just another organization that follows a person who has a single interpretation of what the Bible says while ignoring the aspects they are uncomfortable with and any other person who questions their interpretation. This is how we get people like Pat Robertson, Paul Crouch, Jim Jones, David Coresh, and so many others. I might attend the occasional service or event of a church based on these ideals, I would not become a member.

  • lymis

    I’d enjoy hanging out with people who felt that way and lived it. I doubt I’d seek out a church at this point for any reason.

  • maryterry

    That was perfect, charlesmaynes!

  • I’m glad I found this blog.It seems like a safe place to hang out and the people here are thoughtful and I find what others say very helpful as I try to figure out my theology. These days I feel lost a lot of the time. Its hard to figure things out when many Christians tell you going to hell and that if you disagree with anything they believe you can’t possibly follow Jesus. Ironically, some of the new atheist crowd are starting to sound more and more like fundamentalists. There seems to be people at the extremes of both Christianity and atheism that believe the Bible is an all or nothing document. Either every word in the Bible is true or none of it is true. When your beliefs become more important than the people in your life you have a problem. If you are afraid to admit you don’t have I all figured or that if you question church doctrine you won’t welcome then something is wrong with the way we do church.

  • I’m glad you found this blog too, James. Your comments are great.

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    I would likely not go to such a church, not because I disagree with the indicated tenets (in fact, I agree with almost all of them), but because I’m a Catholic and, in spite of all its obvious flaws from a progressive Christian standpoint, I still feel that I belong with my frequently dysfunctional family.

    I have faith that my church WILL evolve, as it has continuously done over the centuries. I’m of the opinion that our greatest conceit as humans is the tendency to think that change, to be meaningful, must occur within our own lifetimes. So I’ll keep working actively to accomplish what I can, and inspire others to pick up the torch when my time is done.

  • Alex

    YES. Please, someone found this church, and I will move to wherever it is. Heck, I would love to serve and be an integral part of a church like that! I feel so spiritually starved. I’ve become a C&E Christian, and somewhat of a deist. I feel so disconnected from God and communing in a spiritual setting with others. But every time I step into a church building or connect with fundamentalist friends, all of the anger and distaste and every reason I decided to stop attending church rushes back.

  • AnnieOly

    This is a great foundation, one which I can embrace. There’s no question that its essential to begin from a place of grace and love. But that still leaves open the question of what the actual reality of coming together in worship and community is going to look like.
    Does it translate into a new testament style community focused on the ‘other’? Where imperfections are seen as opportunities to grow in grace? Is it the same old songs and speech plus programs approach or a gathering where everyone is encouraged to share and participate?
    Solving these issues will require a very different cultural approach to what we currently refer to as ‘church’. For me these are the fundamental issues that make attending a church seem so hollow and pointless.

  • disqus_vse8VLAIQm

    I’d consider it, but one of the major reasons I left the church was because I felt like I wasn’t coming there for God; at the end, I was coming there so my mother could save face. She would want me to come and stand there while she gossiped about others in the church — in the same room. And when I got upset and confronted her about it, she played the victim.

    In theory, it is possible that I could go back to a church that I think follows these rules, but to be honest, I more enjoy sitting in my favorite coffee shop and just relaxing Sunday mornings now. This blog is probably as close as I get to “church”, and that’s okay with me.

  • Jennifer

    I agree with everything BUT #1. I believe Jesus was a fellow human. Period. But yeah, the rest is pretty much what I believe. Church? Hmmmmm, dunno.

  • Catherine Claessens

    Yes, yes I would probably go to that church. But there are many reasons I have left the one I grew up in. One of them is that there is an almost incestuous pressure to only love the people within it. The community is SO tight that dating, and especially marrying anyone who isn’t in it, is considered a dangerous path of stupidity, because the conflict it might cause in your relationship is intolerable. And if you don’t get them to join, well, you’re both stuffed, you can both put up with upturned noses and suspicious treatment. And if you don’t accept the discernment about your life from the designated community leaders- you’re deluded, you’re being led by the devil. There are upsides, but the downsides got me down enough over 8 years that I just went, ‘Nope!’.

  • My most devout Catholic friend is a man married to a Jewish man and they have a son (with another child on the way). They are welcomed with open arms into mass each Saturday. And he has never been denied Eucharist. Some Christians get it.

  • Karen Brown

    Agreed, church seems to have become a series of “Christian” activities, but, In my personal experience, never led to an engagement or involvement in the wider community. The church I was in had activities throughout the day on Sunday (which was exhausting, ironically, on the “day of rest”), and donated money to a few small missionary programs (in far away countries), but the general mood was very reticent when it was suggested members actually donate their time or money to local causes (“But that’s not really a Biblical charity…”) 🙁

  • mona

    I would run to that church….

  • Alan Christensen

    I think what I like most about the above statement of faith is that (unlike most fundamentalist/evangelical ones I’ve read) it doesn’t start with an inerrant Bible. The proper starting point for Christian faith is always the person and work of Jesus.

  • James Walker

    I, of course, love the UC tenets and if I saw them on a local church’s website incorporated in their “what we believe” statement would definitely feel more comfortable giving them a try.

    Another poster, 2TrakMind, hit on another thing I would look for: meaningful community involvement. I want ways that I can volunteer in my community and can teach the children in my household the value of giving back. But, I want to do that as part of my worship and fellowship with other believers, not just on my own joining some worthy project I’ve found through our local volunteering groups. I want my volunteering to be a part of my Christian witness to my community and to mean something more than just “this random guy showed up and helped us fill food aid packages”.

    I look around in Memphis and I see these huge, ego-fulfilling buildings and monuments. I ask myself how many homeless people could have been sheltered, how many hungry children fed, how many sick people given extra support for the money it took to build that -thing- that does nothing but draw attention for attention’s sake. And I die a little inside.

    If I could find a church that shared the UC beliefs and also was known for DOING something to help the people in my area, I’d be on board.

  • I don’t know of a local church in my area that offers what the UC tenets have to offer. Mine does the community projects thing quite well and a few of the other tenets, which is why I go there. If they change and cow to the more orthodox crowd, I’m done.

    Edifices and religious displays are common here in South Carolina too. One very conservative baptist church, right by the interstate not only has a big fifteen foot neon cross on the front lawn, but also a very large lighted sign that has neon colored texts flashing away that can easily distract drivers passing by.

  • Mark McRoberts

    John, you have made into words so much of my feelings. These are so much the very elements of my faith. In times of frustration (which there are many) I feel like “my” UMC church has been kidnapped by fundamentalists that just want to demand adherence to their political and social ideas that they have elevated to a Christian orthodoxy that is not part of what Jesus taught and surly is not of the two great commandants that Jesus taught. I guess that in my family and in my own experiences learning about civil rights I have questioned much of conventional orthodoxy. But much of my frustration stems from various people who demand their positions to be correct and let me reassure you that I don’t accept stuff on the left as well as the right. I keep going back to Jesus’ great commandants as the rule I hold everything up to. Plus I don’t feel that I have all the answers….nobody has all the answers except God and he is not talking, at least to me.

  • Love it. Thanks, Mark.

  • Thank you for this, Alan.

  • Mike Goetz

    A question about #5 and submitting. I believe that Jesus came to remove hierarchical and power structures, both within the church as well as in personal relationships. But would it reasonable to articulate this as _mutual_ submission instead of stating that no one is to submit?

    I would not advocate for coercive submission; the kind where one person demands or forces or manipulates another to coalesce. Instead I think it’s a Kingdom value to submit oneself to others, willingly and mutually — no one is dominant; there is no “winner”.

    When relationships are working well and there are disagreements, we don’t claim rights or authority, and we don’t kowtow meekly. Rather, we wrestle with the issues, to pray and to take time to work it out and find the points of agreement.

  • The reason number five is there is because of a misunderstanding of what submission is all about and how it has been used to subjugate and oppress women, in the home and in the church. Submission is a voluntary action, a willingness to let someone else take the lead, even though one knows they are quite capable of leading the way themselves or going it alone.

    What has been taught in many churches including ones I have been a part of, is not a willing step aside mindset, but rather, one that has determined that women are going to take second place over men in most positions of leadership, or final decision making, and to not promote and enforce is ungodly and weak.

    I’ve heard repeatedly that women are the “weaker vessel” to mean that we aren’t as able, strong enough, have enough power, or stability, like men do. It utterly ignores the fact that we what we may lack in physical strength is easily made up in other ways, and in much of that we are equals to our male counterparts, and have strengths not normally found with them.

    Healthy relationships, be them marriages, work places, church congregations recognize the strengths of all involved, and share responsibilities, being willing and humble enough to get out each other’s way, and supporting one another because of their abilities not their genders.

    Power structures and hierarchies have their place, we would agree there, as they can maintain stability and harmony. They do best when they aren’t about control and subjugation of one part over another.

  • Mike Goetz

    Yes I fully agree. I guess it’s easier to represent your five paragraphs as John’s succinct point #5, but perhaps the greater goal is to ultimately redeem the word “submit”.

  • exactly.

  • HappyCat

    To me, yes the tenants are good. Maybe my response is shallow, but what stops me from going to church more than anything is a sense of community and belonging that I find missing. I don’t own much “church clothes” anymore, so that keeps me away from most mainline denominations. The hip and friendly vibe of some of the more ‘casual’ churches often disguises a rock-ribbed fundamentalism that I will never. ever associate with again. I find it slightly tragic that I feel most at home in the anime/geek subculture. I want to go to church, I really do. I want to sing, study the Bible with others again, be part of community again. But I don’t know where to even begin to find a place I can go to church wearing a Dr. Who t-shirt and jeans and see smiles instead of stares.

  • Linda Price

    What part of SC are you in? I’m part of a small worship community in NC near the SC border with York County, and we just posted this on our Facebook page because we so strongly identify with these ideas.

  • Linda Price

    This is probably more of a question for John Shore, but I’d love any input I could get.

    I posted this article on our worship community’s Facebook page because it pretty well sums up what we believe and received the following comment: I think I could get behind most of what that said. I would like to know more about what was said about Pauls writing and how they came up with that statement. Recently in an in-depth bible study we were discussing the fact that only 7 of the letters attributed to Paul are undisputed – but I’d love to be able to give a more complete answer to this seeker. Can anyone send me in the right direction for more info?? Thanks.

  • What did the questioner mean by “that statement”? Which/what statement are they asking about?

  • JenellYB

    I disagree with your definition of “submission’ as voluntary. As you are defining it, the more appropriate and correct word would be “cooperative.” Submission is a subjected, submitted state, condition, to the dominance of another or others. not the same as cooperative through choice and agreement. Biblical “submission’ of women to the authority of men was not at all a chosen cooperation, even if through cultural conditioning and the reality of the danger of defiance resulted in acceptance.

  • Linda Price

    Point #4 – biblical scholarship about Paul not condemning homosexuality.

  • Linda Price

    Keep looking! We’d LOVE a Dr. Who fan! We are a casual, contemporary church that does play Christian rock but without fundamentalism or judgment. Churches like the kind you are looking for DO exist!

  • James Walker

    Here’s a good place to start:


  • Jeanne2.0

    Yes, if these were the tenets of a church near me, I would probably be *obsessed* with trying to visit it, although in reality at this moment it would be an extreme risk to my marriage to do so. At this time I have come to believe all these points while my husband probably would only agree with points 1 and 12. Much, much more talking and listening will have to happen before I could visit such a church withough his considering it a betrayal of what he believes in. (Note: we love each other very much and he is a very good man. I just change and accept change quicker.) Actually, it is kind of funny: we are both considering leaving our long-time denomination (UMC), but he will be looking for a more conservative church to “get us (read: me) back on track”, while I will be looking for a way to stay home at least for a while. Meanwhile this and a couple of blogs have really helped keep my spirits high. Thank you for that, John.

  • The original meaning of catholic is universal or all inclusive. This is why the Apostles Creed contains the statement “the holy catholic Church”. Sadly, some Christians forget that everyone is called to God’s table and block the communion table from those who hunger and thirst. Its nice to see that more and more Christians believe no one is excluded from God’s table.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    I don’t suppose you live in rural west-central Iowa… because my congregation–part of the definitely mainline Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)–would welcome you in whatever you happen to be wearing. We’re casual, but liturgical; we sing hymns, but not always old ones, and rarely slow and dirge-like; we’re about joy, not judgment, and welcome all points of view; and as Disciples we celebrate communion every week and welcome everyone to participate.

    If you don’t live in rural west-central Iowa, check out a DOC congregation near you; we’re not all alike, but you may well find the community you’re looking for.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    As Christians we follow one who *did* voluntarily submit–who acted as a servant and was radically obedient to God’s greatest commandments (love God and love neighbor), even though it meant his death; and we’re supposed to develop a similar mindset in how we deal with one another–not grasping at greatness, but instead choosing loving service.

    The thing that has been misinterpreted in the Scriptures talking about submission is that it’s meant to be both voluntary AND mutual. The dreaded Ephesians 5 passage, read in its entirety, begins with the exhortation (I hesitate to call anything in any of the epistles “commandments” because of the nature of the letters themselves) to “be subject TO ONE ANOTHER.” The onus isn’t all on wives, and the idea is that we seek first what is best for the other, before insisting on our own way.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    When it becomes an institution there’s a great risk that it can stop being a community. When it becomes housed in a permanent structure, a great deal of time and resources go to maintain the structure, instead of doing ministry and following Jesus. I get the impression that the wave of the future is small gatherings of disciples who come together for study, support, and service; and any leader they may choose to have is raised up from within the group. It sort of excites me, because maintaining a building and an institution saps the energy out of leaders and congregation alike, and leaves little room actually to love our neighbors.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    Agreed. I’m sort of thinking about reclaiming the title “disciple,” which means “follower” and “student.” If “Christian” continues to be associated with rigid and judgmental legalism, then I will be simply a disciple of Jesus. That’s what our church is called, anyway, Disciples of Christ, so it’s not exactly a big step.

  • R Vogel

    As a wise man once taught me to answer all questions: It depends. Statements of belief are all well and good, but I an skeptical of most church structures. Top down power invariably becomes abusive. I see no way around that, regardless of what your starting point is. If I have to sit on a bench called a pew and look up to some guy or gal who was granted authority by some organization or institution while they talk at me about religion unchallenged and unchallengable, then it’s not going to be my cup ‘o tea. I’m far to cranky and iconoclastic for that.

  • I own “church clothes” but I rarely wear them. Preferring business casual. Plus I am known to shed my shoes before the opening interlude, and process, in choir robe, barefooted to the choir loft. The shoes remain hidden under the last pew. Its the south, so we have a few little ladies in Sunday hats and pearls, kids in polos and jeans, some in suits, some in button downs. But only on Sunday mornings.

    I used to attend a semi-mega church, and they wore whatever they wanted, so the wardrobe would have fit for you, but the sense of community was lacking. “rock-ribbed fundamentalism” was sorta the feel I eventually got.

    Im in the south-east. I do know of a church in Kansas that would welcome you Who-villian attire and all.

  • AtalantaBethulia
  • BrotherRog

    Excellent article John! Here are 7 Helpful Ways to find a Progressive Christian Congregation: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/01/7-ways-to-find-a-progressive-church/