some thoughts on thoughts

I appreciate all the comments I’ve received from many of you. I get anything from I’m not criticizing the church enough to I’m criticizing the church too much. Right off the bat, I want to admit I love the church. I confess it. I believe in it. But what I love is the actual church, the actual fellowship of believers. What I try to criticize are the “ideas” of church that swirl all around her. They are not her, but thoughts about her. That’s why I invite criticism of my ideas, because that’s all they are.

Here’s a couple of reasons why I criticize ideas about the church:
1. Many of my friends, who are “believers”, abstain from church altogether. Why? This is a burning question for me. I don’t think they’re just being lazy or rebellious or backslidden, but that there’s something crucially wrong. Maybe they, like squirrels, smell a trap and avoid it because they know it would mean their deaths. If there’s a sniff of manipulation, control, oppression, or bondage, they stay away. And I happen to believe that the church is the perfect culture for these poisons, like any other institution. I want to address this issue.

2. If we are concerned about evangelism, missions, or church growth, look at #1.
3. I pastor a church. I love her. That is, the church as it is. The actual fellowship of the actual people. However, there are all kinds of ideologies, expectations, theories, strategies, and propagandas around her and within her that would damage, deform, and destroy her. I’m critical of those.

Anyway, just some thoughts on thoughts. Feedback!!!!

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  • Joni

    I saw the church functioning in authenticity on Wednesday night and it was not something I am use to. How sad is that? Thirty some years in the church and now I am seeing the church, the body of believers in a real way that I have never seen or experienced and it shakes me to the core. I feel so safe, protected and loved in the midst of it all.

    I am thankful to have a pastor who is critical of all kinds of ideologies, expectations, theories, strategies, and propagandas around and within the church that would damage, deform, and destroy us. I am thankful that you continue to be who you are and share that with me.

    I love the “church”, the body of believers.. I love the realness of relationships that I am finding and the genuine community that comes out of that.

    And yet I find myself turning away from the aspects of the “church” that have produced such wounding and devastation in my life. The ones you mentioned are at the forefront of what turns me in disgust.. manipulation, control, oppression.. etc.

    I am so thankful that we serve a God that is not manipulating, controlling or oppressive. A God who’s grace surpasses our understanding and who offers such freedom to us that is beyond what we can even imagine or think.

  • deb

    I hate that you get so much criticism! i love the way you and Lisa are so completely and utterly UNcritical of people. i confess that i am sometimes way to critical of people in my mind and my words. But i know it’s right for you to be critical of the ideas of which you speak, and in my heart i know that it is the work of the ideas in people that i am or should be critical of not the people themselves. i need to be more conscious of the ideas and more conscious of the people under the slime of the ideas, so i can wipe off the slime and still love them and hopefully they will do the same for me. Thank-you for looking under my slime and liking me anyway.

    is this at all coherent? prob’ly not.

  • coherent!

  • Brian Metzger

    God save us from ideas that don’t provoke. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable David! Besides, everybody needs a place to share thoughts and ideas without looking over their shoulder for the Spanish Inquisition. Of course, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition…

  • Tim Davidson

    Hi Dave,

    As requested, I’ll post some of our conversation.

    Yeah, I do find the tone of your blog overly critical toward the church. Not that there isn’t lots of church stuff that’s not great – but I think you are forgetting the stuff that is great. The balance of the blog tips overwhelmingly to the negative.

    I know most blogs are a place to gripe a bit but it seems that you are comparing the worst of the church with the very best of non-church. Yes, at times the church sucks – but have you noticed the world does, too? It feels like deconstructionism without construction. For all her periodic illness and ugliness the church is still Jesus’ girl. I don’t think a bride-to-be thrives on harsh criticism.

    So much for my thoughts on the blog. As for you… I say you have one of the sharpest minds I know and I like your paintings a lot. That goes for your tunes as well. I have no experience with malt – single or otherwise, so I can’t comment on that.

  • Jeff Roach

    Regarding your comments, Tim, I think you have offered a valid criticism from your perspective.

    However, some people don’t like criticism and critical thinking. They see critical thinking as a negative exercise and you may (or may not) be in this camp.

    For the most part, I think “constructive criticism” to be a marketing/politically correct concept that is also very “Canadian”. David’s blog seems to be a non-threatening environment in which criticism is invited and neither positive nor negative. This is evidenced by David’s invitation for you to share your comments on his blog in this public forum. So I don’t think this spin is required here to protect the innocent.

    I think the tone David takes is positive. But you may feel that, as a fellow pastor, you are on the receiving end of much of David’s criticisms and I think this is unfortunate if it is true.

    Judaism introduced self-critical thinking to the world a long time ago and is, I believe, the greatest gift it has given humanity. I see this blog community as a great example of this tradition and I appreciate it even as an outsider looking in.

  • robin ellingwood


    While I agree with your assertions that “some people don’t like criticism and critical thinking” because “they see it as a negative exercise,” and see the good gained by “self-critical thinking,” I must confess that I don’t see the point nor the value of deconstruction (criticism) without construction (creation of some other alternative). While I love MUCH of the emerging church dialogue, I have to admit, I grow tired of the cynicism and the Church-bashing that is void of any way forward.

    The late, great Kyle Lake nailed this when he said, “The safest and most comfortable place to sit is in the bleachers playing the role of the critic. However, it’s much more difficult and much riskier to move beyond the role of the critic by stepping out onto the playing field – to move from critique to creation, from deconstruction to construction, from disassembly to assembly – in hopes of providing an alternative mode of thinking and living in the way of Christ.” (Understanding God’s Will, Relevant Books, 2004, p. xxii)

    If we’re honest with ourselves, it is easy to call the church out on her blunders. After all, the church is an easy target. But perhaps the more difficult task, and in my opinion the more important task at hand, is to offer an alternative, a way forward into the future (i.e. If the church isn’t supposed to look like this, then what is the alternative?) Rather than asking, “What isn’t?” maybe we should be asking, “What could or should be?”

    Anyway, just a couple thoughts. Thanks for creating a space to dream and dialogue about these issues Dave.