Monday, October 17, 2005

Initial Reflections on the Gathering

My mind is still settling in to some realizations I made while in New Mexico. I am still chewing on several thoughts, letting the implications work out in me.

One thing that I seem to have realized while at the Gathering (which is also something I have thought alot about since my formal departure from being on church staff a year ago and since leaving our 'home-church-experiment' a few weeks ago) was that I am not so concerned with building a better church, but figuring out a better way to be a human living in the way of Jesus.

Let me explain...

This year drew about 175 people from all over the US (and world) to the Gathering. In years past, it's been closer to 55 or 60 people.

Alot of new people with wild ideas about how to plant a better church or religious non-profit or how to transition an older mainline church to emerging values. Alot of these people are very well-intentioned. Several of them are dear friends.

But I realized that I am not really one of those people. I don't really care where the church is going or how to make the church more relevant or how to get people into pews and give their money to pay a pastor to help them live better.

Now don't get me wrong: I am not saying those are bad things; I just don't really care about them. Thank God there are people who care about them...but I am seeing more and more that it doesn't spark interest in me anymore.

I want to figure out how to be Jesus for the world. How to live out this subversive, revolutionary way in the world, not behind closed doors with 4 walls and a steeple. I want to figure out how to be in community with the whole of God's creation, listening for the Spirit wherever I may be.

Perhaps this dichotomy isn't really as diametrically opposed as I see it. Certainly there are people who are part of churches or church staff that are truly trying to do this...and generate momentum from within the walls of a church...but again, that is not me.

So who knows what's next. Who knows where the wind will blow. Just trying to figure out what it means to live in the way of Jesus for the bettering and preserving of the world.


Martin said...

Ah, Grasshopper, I think that you are getting to The Point. You're on the right track for sure.


Nate Millheim said...


Thanks for the post. You articulated what I've been feeling and thinking (although I do care about one particular non-profit called ReIMAGINE and think about how it can impact the world). I think I'm at the point now where I am totally okay with people being excited about a new way to "reach" people or do house church or simple church or complicated just doesn't get my juices flowing, and I have a difficult time entering conversations around them. Also, I really enjoy not ever thinking about how many people I can get to come to a "church" event or commit to a program...I'm particularly hoping to never, never use Power Point ever again.


Joshua Rudd said...

For real man. i've not been interested in going to the Gathering in years past because this whole "conversation" which really seems to be mainly about how the church/Church should be and look like and operate in an "emerging" context. Thing is, i don't care, either.

With all this talk about church and christianity and how cool it can be and look like, we've forgotten to talk about Jesus. In fact, screw talking about Jesus, let's live out Jesus.

We came this year because someone offered to purchase the airfare - i'm glad we came (saw a bunch of friends we haven't seen in a while)... and we got to meet you guys, too.

Jeffrey said...

Out of curiosity, what transformed your thinking? What opened your eyes to the reality of who Jesus?

Brian Aaby said...

Thanks once again for your words and thoughts about the recent gathering, hadn't heard much from anyone yet. I appreciate your willingness to share your faith journey with us, and seeing as how the last few questions I have had for you have been met with no response (if I have offended please forgive me) I don't expect for you to answer this one (unless you are so led).

Living as Jesus lived: Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 "...upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." You did not condemn those that were involved in church or those discussing how to make it better, you simply said "it wasn't you"... but it is Jesus. It was the way He walked, shouldn't it be part of who you are (if you want to walk as He walked)?
I'm confused, and not that I need for you justify yourself or defend, but I am trying to grasp the transformation I have seen from a distance. I am concerned that the person who wanted to live in the shadow of Christ (I think that was the original intent for "Timber") is now a spokesperson for a different way of walking as Christ did... and I just don't see it the same way (it doesn't make me right, but I can't see a lot of what you see in Jesus' own words). One source of confussion: the Timber website has links to your new music site, students who come looking for the "worship" stuff of Timber are might go to a site (cobalt) that seems to question the faith in which they are looking to sing about (again, your lyrics are honest about what you are experiencing, but raw; and I believe can confuse some of your former audience that don't understand the journey you have been on).

While I certainly do not consder myself a fundamentalist (though I am sure some of your readers will see this as a fundy rant) I am simply trying to better understand the transformation that is taking place in your life.



Chris Kirk said...

I think you're on it, man. I came away from the gathering with a renewed sense to "be", rather than "do" Maybe the "being" is what God is actually calling us to "do" anyway, as opposed to all the things we call "ministry"? Keep up the journey.

Eric Wakeling said...

While I don't agree at all with what Brian said about Timber and kids,etc. I think that it would be wonderful for kids who were at a camp with Timber to read this blog and/or cobalt lyrics.

But the negativity about the church from you and some of the other commenters kind of bums me out. Now, I don't expect you or anyone else to be in church ministry nor do I think that's the best way or only way to live out the Way. Obviously, I am in church ministry and I am seeking to re-shape my local church congregation. I am excited about helping a group of people live passionately for Christ and understand what that looks like after decades of brainwashing and indoctrination into a false idea of who Jesus is and what the church should be,

I know you deflected a bit, but quotes like these were just kind of hurtful for someone like me to read,

"how to make the church more relevant or how to get people into pews and give their money to pay a pastor to help them live better."

"How to live out this subversive, revolutionary way in the world, not behind closed doors with 4 walls and a steeple."

I want people to live Jesus in the real world. I want to live Jesus in the real world. I am growing and learning and becoming more open to new ways of doing that every day. Please don't say I want money or want to hide behind closed doors because I care about the church.

Ryan - you know that I'm not the person who comes on "emerging" blogs to bash them or whatever. I love the movement, but I also have a calling to the church - my church - the people who come there every week AND the people in the community around the church who we want to love and be revolutionary with as well.

Begginning to ramble, must stop...

Brian Aaby said...

Ryan (and Eric),
I hope my statement is not seen as any sort of "bash" at all... I too believe that many questions need to be raised about the way "church" is and can/should be re-shaped.
Eric thank you for handling your comments with grace. I believe that some youth would do well to read Ryan's lyrics/blog, However, much of what is written (even the language that is used) I believe would/could simply cause confusion. Again, we can certainly disagree on this point.
Last, please do not see this as a "bash" at all... I'm seeking understanding and obviously am reading it through the lenses of my experience.

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

My apologies if my hyperbole wasn't obvious enough. Sarcasm doesn't always translate into cyber-words.

Certainly people (like Eric and Brian and Nate and so many other) are trying to bring goodness and change to the (sometimes) dark place called "The Church". And I honor that...really.

But those days for me trying to make change from within "The Church" I believe might be over.

And Brian, I just think we understand that passage very differently.

Cheers friends and keep digging deeper, keep turning over stones, keep seeking God's Spirit to lead you... And I ask you pray the same for me.

Eric Wakeling said...


Thanks for comments here and on my blog. It is now understood to be hyperbole and I totally feel your sense of wanting to move on.

Much love,


Anonymous said...

Ryan, I don't have time just this moment to sign up to "blogger" and go through all the hoopla so I can comment on your latest post so I just thought I'd fire off an email. I couldn't agree more. I love the Church. I don't particularly like the church. I think there's obviously tremendous value to the Church due the fact that we are the Body of Christ. I think we've allowed the church to be overcome with organizational BS that is far more focused on numbers, finances, and shallow theologies. Consider the outbreak of Purpose Driven Life mania to cement the idea of shallow theology. Rick Warren offers good principles in his book, one's that I would agree with more or less. But why is the book such a runaway seller? Because people haven't been getting any meat! They've been hearing feel good, apathetic talks and have experienced, by and large, the Sunday morning experience. Community is not permeated with vulnerability and openness but rather with a random dinner here and there and other such trivialities. The leadership is often looking for the next big thing, the next hook, the next "Passion of the Christ" outreach....It's disconcerting. Plus, I just can't resolve the fact of the facts working against all of it. We build megachurches but solid research and study teaches that the small church/house church/whatever you want to call it is far more effective in reproducing disciples and creating community. But, I digress....
I love the Church. I'm right there with you. I could keep going but I know we're both busy.

Looking forward to seeing y'all,

Jon said...

This is where the journey begins. (Of course, every moment is the starting point, but...)

I really relate to that point of not caring about what other people care about. I think this is the heart of renunciation, and the pop-spirituality of the day which we call the Church is something I myself felt the need to distance myself from. Not that I don't go there sometimes. Not that I don't wish the best for them, but I'm on something different.

I was talking with a friend at lunch, who reminded me of, well, me--not that long ago, thinking that Truth can be arrived through facts, specifically through the "correct" understanding of the Bible, etc.

I didn't have the words to say it at the time, but next time I see him, I think I'll say, "I'm not interested in being 'a Christian.' All I want is to know God's heart and reflect it in the world." What else is there?

There's a definite feeling of a shift at this point, when you look around, and see that others, God bless them, are on one road, and that you are on a different one, one less traveled. It's sometimes a little scary, and it's often a little lonely and sad. But you won't trade it for anything. You've not only been called, but chosen.

Peace and Blessings, friend

tonymyles said...

Quoting Augustine:

"The church is a whore, but she is my mother."