But if it weren’t for my years not going to church, I wouldn’t be back in church today. My husband spent eleven years outside church, participating in a group that threw off all “churchiness” to be a community of people grounded in following Jesus together without all the distraction and busyness of a traditional church community. I spent two years with that group before they dispersed. While I went on to even greater churchiness by joining a mainline denomination, I went with no moral attachment to church attendance. I know from experience that Christ-centered community can happen in many ways.
Kelly announces the great news that “it is possible to be a Christian and not go to church but by being the church remain true to the call of Christ.” In fact, there are many people who go to church but are not being the church and that is where the disconnect from Christ’s call really lies. Jesus didn’t come to establish buildings and programs and weekly attendance, he came incarnating the presence of God in this world. He showed us how to do that with others. In our panic about the diminishing of Christendom, we need a renewed imagination for what that may look like.
What drew me back to church fifteen years ago is at the heart of Kelly’s stories. The disappointment and hurt many have experienced at church should not keep us from following the way of Jesus and building communities committed to practicing his presence in the world. We can draw on contemporary innovation and the long, diverse history of the church to imagine a different future.
Kelly’s premise doesn’t work me out of a job but in fact reminds me of why I got into this ministerial business in the first place… because I believe that when people actually become the church, we participate with God in the healing of our world.