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Expectations… Part 2

Posted by on March 4, 2006

I suppose I really should follow up my previous post with a bit of an explanation. This is part one of a two part explanation.

Back at the beginning of September, I resigned from a bi-vocational ministry position. I had been on staff with the church for over a year and a half, but we definitely knew that God was leading us away from the church. We had prayed for months that He would show us which direction to go, but God answered by showing us how rather than where.

Since then, we have been trying to find the right church to attend. We have visited some, but we have been more successful at ruling out possibilities than we have at finding viable ones. I was only halfway joking when I implied that the problem might, in fact, be ours. Maybe we have expectations that truly are too high.

So, what do we expect you ask? I am not sure how well I can define that answer, but I will try.

Honesty, openess, & transparency. This is a huge deal to me. I don’t have my crap together, and I don’t really want to pretend like I do. I have no desire to be a part of a community of faith that makes it a habit of putting on their masks of worship each Sunday as they continue to grow in their ministry of appearances.

Seeker-friendly, not seeker-oriented. I think that the church needs to be evangelistic in nature and that the services need to be open and inviting. I am afraid that by making the worship services all about the seeker, we are neglecting to feed the flock that has gathered. Personally, I believe that people will be drawn towards real people who are authentically worshipping their God. If the church is all about bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors, then the church will be certain to grow… for a while. But what happens when the church down the road has better smoke and shinier mirrors? The church is not meant to be a place of mere entertainment.

Challenges. I have no desire to listen to a self-help talk with a little Jesus thrown in to make it spiritual enough for church. I recently found an excerpt from a book by Brennan Manning online, and in it, he said:

Consider how our churches have explored and exploited our need to replace the numbness in our lives with a passion for something, anything. We’ve created worship in which music is meant to stir the emotions but the soul is left unmoved, in which the words spoken are little more than manipulations of the heart. We have created cathartic experiences filled with weeping and dancing in the Spirit that leaves us with the sense that we have touched God but that fail to give us the sense that God has touched us. We run to churches where the message feels good and where we feel energized and uplifted–but never challenged or convicted. “It is not surprising that spiritual experiences are mushrooming all over the place and have become highly sought-after commercial items,” writes Henri Nouwen. “Many people flock to places and persons who promise intensive experiences of togetherness, cathartic emotions of exhilaration and sweetness, and liberating sensations of rapture and ecstasy. In our desperate need for fulfillment and our restless search for the experience of divine intimacy, we are all too prone to construct our own spiritual events.”

Community. My heart longs to be a part of a community of faith that is open and accepting, where people accept one another for who they are and where they are… where people are committed to sharing life’s journey together.

Maybe my expectations are too high… but I don’t think so.

Note: None of the expectations here are intended to be interpreted as a criticism of any one church. The fact is, in each church we have visited, people have been ministered to, and in each, people are finding their needs met. However, these were not the places for the Andress family. Not because we are better or have an inside track into the mind of God when it comes to what the church in the 21st century should be, but simply because we are the sum total of all of experiences. All of our yesterdays have made us who we are today and who we will be tomorrow… and they have put us in the place where it seems like the right church for us is going to be a difficult one to find.

8 Responses to Expectations… Part 2

  1. Scott Leach

    Dear Blair,
    Perhaps it is not what you are looking for that is hard to find, but where you are looking. If you need a post office, and you keep going into banks, you will be disappointed every time. If you keep looking to places that foster the things you find impoverished, well…you get the point. Typical churches DON’T promote transparency…because they are structured to have certain people elevated above others, who, by virtue of their “office”, must maintain their place on their pedestal. WHy not try a church built on the New Testament concept – no “Senior Pastor”, but rather led by elders, who, along with all the congregation, submit themselves to the Lord. Instead of performance “worship”, why not try a fellowship where real, worship is promoted and practiced in a way that each believer-priest may have a part? Are you interested? write me.

    Your friend and brother in HIM,

    Scott Leach

  2. Paul Bonner

    Blair, Maybe you are expecting too much from the “church”. The true church is a body of believers, who are far from perfect. The Head of the Church, our Lord and Savior, is where you should be setting your expectations. He is the source of all, and He will never disappoint. Perhaps the New Testament church examples are worth further study to see what the Lord set in place for those who follow Him.


  3. Blair

    Mr. Scott & Paulie,

    Since you both commented at virtually the same time saying seemingly related comments, I hope it’s okay that I respond to you both together.

    For the past several years, one of the things I have prayed consistently over and researched scripture concerning is what a New Testament church should look like in the 21st century. I am not so bold as to think that I have THE answer for that question, but I think I know more than I did several years ago when I started answering the question.

    Mr. Scott, you make a valid point when you state that the problem with transparency is often fostered from the pulpit; however, I am not sure that I agree that the motivation is always to create a pedestal. Some have learned it by example, and others have actually been taught in seminaries that you never let your guard down. I have actually sat in staff meetings with pastors who said that such openness and honesty was “dangerous.” I am still not sure what that means. Running with scissors can be dangerous. Drinking and driving can be dangerous. Living openly certainly doesn’t seem to fall into that category.

    At the same time, honesty and openness can be modeled from the pulpit as well. I know of some wonderful men who are serving as great examples of this.

    One of the reasons for my our frustration level is because we have some pretty specific burdens and passions for ministry that don’t really seem to be happening in any local churches. As Miranda and I have discussed these ideas, we have realized that one of three things is going to happen. One possibility is that we will be able to come alongside an existing church and start a new ministry within that church. Another possibility is that we start a whole new work. (For the record, I am running as hard as I can in the other direction from this one. I figure if I can escape it, it isn’t a God thing.) The third possibility is that we will experience more than our share of frustration. Right now, we are in the frustration part.

    All too many people approach church with the mentality of “What’s in it for me?” While I don’t want to reinforce the concept of a consumer-driven church, there is a certain amount of logic to this. The fact is, I know that I can serve at any church we attend. I have an idea of what my gifts are, and I can use them anywhere we end up. Since I can give anywhere, the question becomes where can I receive? Where can the needs of my family and myself be met? (Understanding, of course, that one of those needs is to use our gifts to encourage the body.)

    I hope that nothing I have said here comes across as prideful.

  4. Christopher Francis

    Chris here…good friend of Pooch and Sig. Pooch talked to me some about your quest (for it is a quest – a quest for Christ and His place for you). While the NT gives many insights into the birth of the Church, have you read any of the Christian writings of the first 3 or 4 centuries to understand what the Church looked like; how it was run? If you don’t know what it looks like (in your case, Christ’s Church), how do you know when you find it?

  5. Blair

    I have done some reading from the early church, but I am more interested in determining what a New Testament church should look like in this culture in the 21st century than learning what a New Testament church looked like in that time in that culture. Does that make sense? I am not underestimating the importance of those who have gone before; rather, I am trying to determine what their journey would look like today.

    Glad to have you visiting… it’s always a good thing when someone else recognizes me as Flig… a name I associate with two guys I hold dear.


  6. Christopher Francis

    Certainly, culture and context allow for the physical aspects of Christ’s Church to change: Christians first met in homes, then in temples once used by pagans, then finally in their own churches. And certain practices may change as well(e.g., segregated seating for men and women, clothing, music, etc…)
    But those issues miss the point. The Church Christ established (whatever you believe that to be) developed and held steadfastly to doctrines and practices that surpass time/culture/context, a common thread that spans the tapestry of Christianity from Christ’s death to today.
    Your study of the early Church needs to be a search for that thread, so that as you search today, you’ll recognize that thread.

  7. Danna Beale

    Dear Blair,

    We met you while visiting Church of the Silver Springs just after you’d moved to RAVE. My husband, Michael, and I worship with our two little ones at what used to be The Well/Prattville before the UMC decided in December that they wanted to close it (not moving fast enough; higher priorities on the docket), etc.

    No matter; God remained firm in His call for us to plant a church which sounds very much like what you say you are seeking…transparency and real relationships, with God and with each other, paramount (second only to prayer).

    We have a God-given vision much bigger than us, and it scares us to death. If God is not in it, there’s no way it will happen. Prayerfully consider checking out WellSpring Community Church, currently meeting at 10:45 on Sunday mornings just inside the mall entrance at Pratt Plaza, across from Winn Dixie in Prattville–for now. Once you meet our wild and wonderful worship leader, Lance Miller, and hear Mike preach through God’s inspiration (yes, I’m biased. Always have been!)…

    You can also catch a glimpse of our dream to authentically reach the unchurched through ministering to young families as we “keep it real” by joining us for the ApologetiX concert at the Doster Center on Sunday, April 9th at 6:30 P.M. We are thrilled and blessed to host them on their way back from GraceFest in Pensacola.

    Having been blessed to visit England four times, I have surely enjoyed your travel blogs and just celebrate the way you have given of your time to open the world for your students. They will NEVER be the same. I’ve been subbing in both Autauga and Elmore counties this year, wading in slowly after having been home with our children for ten years, but I am encouraged for a position at Coosada Elementary next year! I’m jazzed!

    Please e-mail me at if you would like more info on WellSpring. We’ve only been “freshly alive” since January 1, and are small in number (not that numbers matter)… 40-50…but what God continues to do in our midst makes me smile, cry, and shiver at the same time.

    God bless you, Miranda, and your family. You are in my prayers as SATS round the corner.

    In Christ,
    Danna Beale

    P.S. I’m a Brennan Manning fan, too…have just started The Importance of Foolishness (living/thinking as Christ did…)

  8. Danna Beale

    P.P.S. Mike and your “Pastor Buddy” had lunch last week. He has been an INCREDIBLE encouragement to us. The next time you talk to him, ask him about WellSpring.

    Praise God for what He is doing and has done in and through CCC!

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