I am not really sure how to go about writing this. I have thought about it a lot and I am still not sure. So I am going to cut to the chase and then see what happens. But first a quick story.
Not too long ago we had a visitor come to LifeBridge who sat there snorting every so often and then took the time to tell me the music blew chunks, the preaching was not polished and the communion should be done different. While he was in his consumeristic dissertation I was having a dialogue in my head that says…”I have to love this guy? There are wonderful people in this room that love well and all you can see is music and speaking cadence? I wish I could say I am sorry that you did not like the show and a sick part of me feels badly you did not like the show…but that is all it is a show. I write the script, plan the soundtrack, set the props. That’s all that happens on Sundays. I should charge admission. This is not what I signed up for. This is not what I dream of every week. This is not what caused me to cry in 2006 as I felt moved to go back to ministry.” So anyway…..story over……
After almost five years of existing as a church, we are planning the death of LifeBridge as a community. But like any good death, this is to make way for transfiguration and resurrection. What will rise in it’s place? I hope it is a Franciscan Province in Lockport, Il.
Overall, I have no regrets that we started LifeBridge in 2008. I firmly believe that it needed to happen so that some people could be helped, go through a spiritual journey, YASO could be born, and this could happen. I cannot think of any other way that I could have met the people I have met and done the things I have done with them without having gone down this road. I also know that my own faith has been transformed during this time…I think it is for the better.
I do have some regrets, but those have less to do with LifeBridge and more to do with me as a human being. My marriage dissolved during this time and I lived in a dual nature where I could be a hero in some places and total jerk in other places and I somehow had a justification for all. On those things I could not justify, I just let them eat away at my soul and my heart like a cancer devouring me. I pulled out of it, but redemption came with a cost. It was a very high price and the longer I waited to fix me, the higher the cost became. Avoid mirrors for too long and it becomes hard to face yourself. But I did.
So why shut down a church plant after five years? Money? Is the vision failing? What the hell is a Franciscan Order or Province thingy?
When a handful of people and I started this road in 2006 as an idea, it was using the new buzzword back then called missional. We wanted to be a group of people that did things that mattered to people. We wanted to live by the quote that Saint Francis had in which he said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.” This mission was bound by two things. The first was to live by the greatest commandment to love God and to love one another as we love ourselves. The second was the great commission…to spread the good news and get others to spread it in the manner that Francis suggested we do.
Having cut my spiritual teeth in a Pentecostal/Evangelical Church world, the only way I knew to do this was through church planting. So I went to an old friend for training in church planting. I served in his church as an intern for a year. You can read all about that in earlier entries.
Church planting paradigms while struggling for something tangible was hard. We put so much emphasis on the church that we (I) almost missed the beauty of what we could do. We started YASO which has helped MANY young people. We helped start the Lockport Resource Center. We helped a few widows (literally) and did some other important things and had fun doing them. All the while, struggling with growing the church.
To be honest, I have not enjoyed Sundays in about two years. Do not get me wrong, getting to hang with my community and my friends is amazing. But it was all the bs surrounding Sundays that sucked.
Market it such a way that people will wanna come.
Put on a “good show” so that they will come back while trying to remain authentic.
Hope there is enough money in the basket to pay the rent and insurance.
Hope that the people that come eventually want to get on with loving others and doing something with that love.
There are about 40,000 different denominations out there and much of looking for a church is like people shopping for a car. To be honest…we are a used beater. Not pretty, but it will get ya where you need to go….most of the time. It breaks down sometimes. Sometimes things do not always work as well as they used to…you get the point. But in the western search for spirituality, many Christians are looking for a fully loaded mercedes with heated leather seats for $50 that has a killer sounds system, DVD player, OnStar, and GPS to tell you where to go with customizable voice options to hear the direction in a manner you approve of.
There are too many hurdles in the way to just get to the love. As I said a few Sundays ago, I wanna skip the foreplay and get to the loving.
So what to do?
Well, on the personal side of my journey I have embraced the path of the mystics. Specifically that of Saint Francis. It has so tugged at me and grabbed me that I went through a postulancy period with a Franciscan order. Along the way I spoke with others in my community about simplicity, fidelity and purity. In the wake of those discussion I have seen people literally donate half their closet to others and empty their cupboards. I have entered into discussions that are followed with actions. I no longer get as mad as I used to over silly things. I try to love my enemies.
There are others who are willing to live this way with me. The Franciscan path is fascinating to me. It is not pastoral, yet there is overlap; it is not monastic, yet there is overlap. It is good and it is beautiful and we will live this out without caring about the quality of the music, the marketing, the preaching and so forth.
It is a rebuilding of the church brick by brick in love. Just like 800 years ago, it is in ruins and it is people and not buildings. All that side stuff we used to do between Sundays will no longer be the side dish, it will be the main course.
This is not easier than church, in some ways it is harder. This is something you do together and under a rule of life. There is a lot less conversation and lot more doing. In these post modern times, I feel it is something more honest to invite people than yet another church plant. That said, this is not THE way, this is a way.
It’s funny, when I speak with people with a ministry dream in their hearts, they always want to do something MORE than church…but we are so caught up in church that is the place they start. I am not opposed to church plants…but if you can sit on a hill over a town…look at the steeples and the divisions and ask yourself if you wanna be another voice there. or if you wanna sing a different song. If starting one of these churches is really what you wanna do, go for it, but if you look into the rich history of what else people have done and use the creativity burning inside you, you may see something different. I hope we have more different.
I think it is hard to do church for the post churched. I think this, neo monasticism and some other things offer some provocative ways to be spiritual, but not religious while engaging in a rule and a common life together.
I know for me this is the right path and some others may be joining me. I think this will be good for us and for the town.
Still have NO clue what to do about blogging and social media. Ah well.