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Saturday, April 14, 2007
They like Jesus but not the Church
The touble is with being a late comer, is that you risk posting something which has already been discussed before. I've had a look back and can't find anything, but apologies if this post is more like deja vu to some of you!

I've been spending time reading Dan Kimball's book They like Jesus but not the Church which I'm really finding interesting. I've blogged a little more in depth about this on my blog. What I really wanted to ask here is what do you think of when you hear the words Church, Christian and Jesus?

If I’m honest when I hear the word church, I automatically think of bricks and mortar, not the body of Christ. Christian makes me think of a follower of Christ, but I always wonder in what sense they follow him. Jesus, what can I say? Absolutely amazing guy, Wow - I can’t take in all of the mercy and grace. My lord.

It would be great to hear what some of your thoughts are. Also if you are interested Dan has an article on the subject in the latest issue of outreach magazine

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posted by Lyn at 9:55 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 4/14/2007 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    If I’m honest when I hear the word church, I automatically think of bricks and mortar

    So do I.

    The word "Jesus" and "Christian" make my ears perk up. I want to hear more -are those words being used to sell something to me (literally or metaphorically)? Is the person who is using them genuine?

    I try to be less skeptical. I've been surprised by authenticity many a time...but I've also been a recepient of unwanted evangelism quite a few times as well.

  • At 4/14/2007 10:47:00 AM, Anonymous lisa

    When I hear/use the word "church" in the context I am used to, I think of a group of people gathered around our dining room table sharing food and life as they follow Christ. But this definition has only come in the last three or four years. Our family has made a deliberate choice to be careful with our words when we speak of church. So we say things like, "we gather as church" instead of "we'll go to church". I guess we've decided that semantics matter because "going to church" a) makes no sense and b) continues to promote the idea of church as a building.

    When I hear the word "christian" I sometimes cringe because I feel the world's contempt as they pronounce it. I am drawn to the word "believer" instead, or the phrase "Christ follower."

    When I hear the name "Jesus" I am humbled and yet filled with joy. I am particularly drawn to him as The Rebel Jesus. If you have never heard Jackson Browne's song of the same title, you should buy if off iTunes. Jackson, who may or may not be a believer, has a profound understanding of who Jesus is. If you don't want to buy the song, at least google the lyrics and read it like a poem.

  • At 4/14/2007 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    I agree with the thoughts here. I would say recently though, that the label "Christian" carries a more negative tone. My experience is that it has been more of a "club". Are you in or are you out?
    Everything and anyone is either "Christian" or "not". I am tired of the classification. I don't usually call myself "Christian". I talk to others about my beliefs, where I am at in those beliefs, but usually make comments about how I expect them to continually change. I find more people using the term less and trying to find other ways to discuss their beliefs.

    As for Jesus, I do find that Jesus is a positive name. Even those that don't believe in certain doctrines etc. in relation to Jesus still resonate with what Jesus taught, represented, and lived. There is a great respect for Jesus by many people.

    Church...well same as you...brick building etc. However, I personally feel, what we experience as "church" is probably very different than it's original meaning. I still "attend" church (well and even work there), but as I have stated before, if the church I attended did not make the changes it has, I wouldn't be "attending" any longer. The form of "church" that is available, no longer fits where I am at. I would meet with friends for coffee or at a house, before I would "look" for another church.

    As a side, I am reading "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" by John Shelby Spong. I am not finished with it, but it is really thought provoking, and touches on these concepts, and exploring new ways to find meaning from premodern context. It came out in 1998, so there may be newer ideas beyond this, however, I like how he calls himself a "believer in exile". That is probably where I would place myself at this point also.

  • At 4/14/2007 03:50:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I recently joined a new playgroup for alternative parents (for a number of reasons, but mostly because the parenting choices I make are generally made fun of by my christian friends). But I'm the lone christian and the group was a bit unsure about letting me (a pastor) join (they are mostly atheist/agnostic, pagan, or wiccan). I had to give all sorts of disclaimers about not being "that sort of christian". and at our meeting the other day the conversation revolved around how they hate the public school "education" but are afraid of the associate homeschool has with fundamentalist Christians. Its an interesting look in from the outside as to how we are viewed by others.

  • At 4/14/2007 04:30:00 PM, Anonymous Lyn

    Thanks for your comments ladies :)

    Lydia - It's more so with the term Christian where I think about whether the person is genuine. I think I'm quite skeptical, as I always expect Christians I come across to be hard core, I've not many one on one who have been on my journey, most look at me quite blankly when I start to talk about new ways of church, being out in the community etc! Mmmm, unwanted evangelism ....!

    Lisa - In my heart that is how I view church - a group of people gathered together, at home, at a coffee house, park etc. When I hear the word church, I still picture bricks and mortar - that will take some time to go I guess!
    I think most people outside of "church" cringe when they hear the word Christian. I recently went to a domestic violence forum, and you could see the expressions on peoples faces drop when they found out I was a Christian - it was almost like "what do we want one of them here for?" I too prefer the words follower of Christ.
    Loved Jackson Browne's song - thanks for that!

    Michele - Christianity is like a club, we have the inside knowledge and lingo! We still "attend" church as my hubby is the pastor, we're finding it more and more difficult though, and I don't think we'll be there too much longer. Thanks for the book recommendation - will have to look it up.

    Julie - I think when we get outside and join different groups, it's a) when we get to hear what others think of Christianity, and their experiences and b) a chance for people to see that there are some regular Christians out there! Sadly some people really haven't faired well from the church :(

  • At 4/16/2007 09:28:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Julie, your experience with the alternative parents group reminds me of two memories from childhood:

    I was homeschooled for a period of time and my family was not any more Christian than anything else, though my parents are spiritually oriented folks. A Christian woman in our homeschooling group invited my mom to join a network of people and resources for homeschoolers, most of which was social or educational in nature -- only my mom had to sign a statement of belief to be part of the group, because the parents were afraid non-Christian children might contaminate their kids. My mom didn't sign and we left the homeschooling group feeling quite disappointed and betrayed.

    Later, we were part of a Unitarian Universalist church during the time that I became a (fundamentalist) Christian. A woman from the church commented to my mother, "I could handle it if my son told me he was gay; I could handle it if he told me he became a catholic; I could even handle it if we told me if murdered someone -- but I could not handle it if my son became a fundamentalist Christian."

    As for me "church" has been very disappointing on pretty much every level for me. Hearing about the vibrant, genuine communities others are involved in gives me hope.

    "Christian" had mixed connotations.

    "Jesus" is beginning to have more positive associations, but for a long time I didn't like the name because I couldn't get out of my head images of Jesus fish next to God Bless America bumper stickers and all the negative feelings I have about combining right-wing war politics with Christian faith/Jesus.

    Also, I have felt so much pressure to belief properly, that sometimes I shut down around the name Jesus because I feel excluded from participating in Jesus because I can't buy into what I perceive I am "supposed to" by those who tend to represent Jesus.

    Slowly I am coming to a more holistic and positive association with the name Jesus as I am able to see Jesus more in context and with less influence from some of that baggage.

  • At 4/16/2007 01:20:00 PM, Blogger LH

    Jemila, I'm sorry that you have felt pressure to believe properly - what does believing properly mean anyway? (I'm not wanting to offend you when I write this). It kind of sounds a bit judgemental. I remember not long after becoming a Christian I was at church, and the lady sitting next to me told me to pass the communion tray by because I hadn't said the sinners prayer with anyone yet, so I wasn't yet a believer. I got so upset, as I had actually given my life to Jesus a few weeks before when I was at home praying. I learnt from this experience that you can't judge what is going on in someone's head or heart, because you simply don't know where or how God is working.

    My real struggle with Jesus was to remove him from the word church, because every time I thought about institutional church I got negative thoughts and this interfered with my relationship with God, so I learnt to remove the two so that I still had a positive relationship with God - does that make sense?

  • At 4/16/2007 01:21:00 PM, Anonymous Lyn

    sorry that was me posting above!

  • At 4/16/2007 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe


    What a hurtful experience to feel judged and excluded, when in actuality even by THEIR standards you were part of the community.

    By not "believing properly" I mean anything from questioning a literal Adam and Eve to the nature of the atonement/how grace/forgiveness "work" to some of the stuff in the OT ala God (according to the text) calling for genocide, including the killing of women and children, as well as what is considered sin, roles of women and nature of scripture/inspiration. Like the concept of instutional church for you, making a perception of certainty on these issues a litmus test for a relationship with Jesus and acceptability in/to the community cause obstacles rather than intimacy in my relationship with God.

  • At 4/17/2007 07:05:00 AM, Anonymous lyn

    You know Jemila, I think God wants us to question things. I don't think he wants us to just accept everything as black and white. :)


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