October 24, 2020

From the Writer’s Worktable: Check in, but don’t always Buy in

bdcThis was going in at the end of a chapter on the Christian and the Bible that I’ve been working on yesterday and today, but it fell out when I changed directions. It may appear in some form in later chapters more intentionally about the faith community. Or maybe not.

Please know: I am speaking to “leavers” in much of this book, i.e. people who have left or are leaving the church. If your orientation is totally “unquestioned loyalty to whatever my church says or does” an you’ve never considered leaving, I’m definitely on a different page.

This topic is giving those outside of the church who still relate to scripture a positive way to think about reapproaching the church on this issue.

What should be the relationship between the Christian and the church when it comes to the Bible? Here’s a simple saying that’s helped me understand the balance: We should “check in” with the church, but not necessarily “buy in” to everything the church is saying about the Bible.

How do you “check in,” but not “buy in?”

For starters, we’re humble and teachable. We know that we need to be taught and we don’t carry the idea that because the Holy Spirit can speak to one person we assume that’s the normal Christian life. It’s not. Paul told the Corinthians that what was already in the Bible was there for their example and their benefit.

Beyond that, we remember that the church often- not always, but often- is the place where we will find those called and gifted to teach the Bible. God the Spirit gives teachers to the church as an encouragement and a resource. Their most basic job: teach the Bible to God’s people and equip them to live the Jesus shaped life.

We should also remember that hearing and interpreting scripture is sometimes a solo project, but usually it’s a group project. I know that most Bible studies can seem like a waste of time, but the realistic anchor of the experiences of others can keep us out of the ditches.

Next, we should keep in mind that the church has often conserved the lessons, truths and evidences of God’s work in the past. Yes, it may be very biased and unbalanced, but we still should “check in” to see what the church’s confessions, biographies, stories, mentors, saints and examples can teach us. It’s a living library there for our use.

Finally, we should remember that even if the church isn’t a place we are comfortable or that we can associate with regularly, it is still moving in the same direction we are toward the Kingdom of God. We may find ourselves on very different roads, but the direction is the same. Our purpose should be to live in peace, to encourage one another, to share our stories and to rejoice/weep together on the journey. Not all pilgrims travel in the same group. Some want to be alone. Some want a small band of friends. Others are comforted and helped by large numbers. God’s Word speaks to all of us and holds all of us together. We should learn to journey to the Kingdom in peace, not in conflict.

You are welcome to comment on what I’ve written, but keep in mind this is a long way from all I have to say about the church and its contribution to Jesus shaped spirituality.

Comments

  1. The other thing I would say to add is that every teaching presented as “truth” by the church should be prayerfully and biblically considered and evaluated, not taken as truth.

    There have been many people who have presented half-truths and non-truths about the Bible. Many of these people were well-intentioned, some not so much so.

    Further, some of what different denominations consider their “truths” are not universal.

    Yes, there is a very large “living library there for our use”. And if you find that a vast majority of that library is opposite your personal belief, perhaps there is an issue to be reconsidered.

    In the end, only by asking the Spirit to speak to us through scripture and guide our lives can we determine if we can live within a particular “truth”.

  2. Do you categorize “leavers” as individuals (as myself) that left the institutional church (any denomination) to gather with fellow believers in our homes with no pastor/laity heirarchy?

    We minister to one another, love one another, and learn about Christ and His Word together. We also help others in our neighborhood and community.

    Swanny

  3. chaidrinkingfool says

    This is a topic in which I am very interested. My parents were burned out on church before I came along, evidently, and while they certainly exposed me to church and were happy to take me to church, they did not get involved *regularly* in one, while I still lived at home. So I come from a background in which I learned that in order to be Christian, one does not necessarily have to attend church.

    This is completely contradictory to the message I’m hearing at church right now, which is basically that Christians *must* be in community with each other in order to grow. With the “community” being assumed to be “church”–whether that’s one with its own building and a hierarchy or a home church without hierarchy (although I don’t know that the speaker has considered the latter: I’m the one who is still referring to it as “church,” although I appreciate many of the differences between it and the institutional churches).

    And since I’ve experienced the Bible used as a weapon against me, by the church…I will be keeping more of an eye than usual on this blog…I’m excited about this topic. Good choice. I can’t think I’m alone in my experiences.

  4. “Finally, we should remember that even if the church isn’t a place we are comfortable or that we can associate with regularly, it is still moving in the same direction we are toward the Kingdom of God.”

    I wish I could agree with that, but I can’t. Far too often a “c” church moves in a direction opposite of the Church.
    The Bride as Help-meet is to help close the God-man gap, and far too often by adding and distorting, serves as a wedge, not a staple.

  5. Brian: Not as a group, no. I’m thinking more of people who left period, not those who went to house church. That’s a whole different creature. No throwing out large chunks of the faith in that process.

  6. Willoh: It was a general statement. I wasn’t denying the existent of exceptions. If every statement contains all its exceptions, even your response above falls apart.

  7. sue kephart says

    imonk,

    I am not trying to be a problem , really. I was just surprised at your comment that Paul ( I assume St. Paul) told (I think wrote) the Christains at Corinth “what was in the Bible”. What Bible? The Jewish Scriptures? Christian writing and letters circulating at that time? I truly would like your take on what consituted “the Bible” during the life of the Apostle Paul.

  8. Sue: I never responded to you. I don’t know what you mean.

    The Septuagint, generally. A few Christian writings out there but none universally accepted.

  9. IMonk said: We should also remember that hearing and interpreting scripture is sometimes a solo project, but usually it’s a group project. I know that most Bible studies can seem like a waste of time, but the realistic anchor of the experiences of others can keep us out of the ditches.

    This is a tough thing for me. When I come to Scripture, I come with everything I have ever heard and learned and read and said. So there really isn’t any such thing as a interpreting Scripture as a solo project; I have too much input in me already for that to be possible. My wife and I were going to do a “manuscript” (print out the text with no chapters, verses, headings, or even paragraph divisions so as not to be affected by those interpretive decisions) together the other day, and as I was getting ready for it I had to choose which Bible version to use. No matter what I do, I am interacting with what a community or tradition has decided or is deciding the text says or means. It is a group project always, even if I am not sitting in my living room with a small group or reading any commentaries.

    I appreciated “the realistic anchor of the experiences of others can keep us out of the ditches.” The person sitting next to me in a bible study may or may not have any particular SKILL or KNOWLEDGE about Scripture that I do not have. On many occasions, that skill or knowledge is a very helpful thing.

    But when that is not the case, two other things can be equally helpful: first, that the person sitting with me knows ME. Then, he/she can recognize how Scripture and my life intersect. Second, as I think you were alluding to, that I know the person sitting next to me. As I listen to their experiences, I can learn how Scripture spoke into their lives. Then, I can emulate the way they put Scripture into practice even when their experiences are different from mine.

  10. thanks, that clarifies “leavers”

  11. sue kephart says

    imonk,

    So you are saying “the Bible” as the Jewish
    scriptures in Greek including the apocryphal? And whatever(?) Christian writing was circulating?

    I ask this because many Christian people have no knowledge of where the Bible came from. I like Philip Yancy’s (one of your SBC’s) book, “The Bible Jesus Read”. He wrote it because so many people kept referring to the (Christian) Bible as if it existed in Jesus’s day.

  12. Yes.

  13. I have to put a twist on your statements that sometimes, within the church (little c) is a solo approach to Biblical interpretation. I’ve been in church experiences where the pastor insist that only he is qualified to digest scripture and spit it into the mouths of the little church people.

    In those cases you must go outside the church, for example a home Bible study groups, to find the group approach.

    It is the same with fellowship and accountability. Those are always touted as the reason not to leave the church, but because I wanted to seek both, at a higher level, has caused me to leave the church (again with a little c)at times in my life.

  14. Do you think its possible to be a christian and not ever really be connected to a community a faith? Wether it be a small group, institutional church, house church whatever – can someone truly be a christian without some sort of fellowship and community with other believers? And Im not talking about someone who has left for a while because of a rough time at church, Im talking about someone who just feels like there fine believing in Jesus on their own period?

  15. sue kephart says

    Aaron,

    I think you can be a ‘Christian’ without a Church. As in a believer in Christ. I don’t think you can be a disciple (active fellower)of Christ as we are called into community. Even hermits are attached to a greater community.

    We need each other. Even if imperfect. There is a monastic value of stability. Staying with the Church of your choice even though it might make you mad at times provides stability. Kind of like staying married, even though there are those days. And like beeing married sometimes it best to leave for serious reasons.

  16. Aaron:

    A Christian without some kind of fellowship is cut off from many blessing and is much deprived. But it happens circumstantially to many people.

    Now if that is a choice based on bad experiences I’d say 1) the church is not a congregation, but a movement. Find a place or places to “Check in” and 2) realize there are so many different kinds of communities, PLUS you can start a form of community yourself.

    But I want to say to anyone who leaves that if they left because of abuse or manipulation, don’t be ashamed to have done so. If you left because you couldn’t find Jesus, don’t be cynically convinced there are no fellow pilgrims for you. Give Jesus and yourself a chance.

    Don’t believe those who would beat you down into one place, no matter what your experience. That’s the controlling nature of many churches. Find a healthy expression of community, and there are many.

    ms

  17. Pastor M says

    A couple of questions and observations:

    Who has authority to speak for or interpret the Bible for the Church or even a church? How do we know what is reasonably accurate and what is “off base?” Do we rely on the Pope, the magisterium, our favorite preacher/teacher, or our own knowledge, as limited as it usually is?

    I like Bible studies and have benefitted both from leading and participating in them, but how do we avoid simply “pooling our ignorance?” That is one concern I have with so-called house churches. I understand the anti-institutional reasons that some give for involvement in a “house church,” but the same issues, or so it seems to me, will eventually arise there as exist in congregations/churches.

  18. Ultimately, a church (lower-case ‘c’) is simply a group of people meeting the urge to “not forsake gathering together, as some do” (paraphrased slightly, but you know the verse). So, in that sense, there’s nothing wrong with house churches, even semi-informal ones.

    On the other hand, since there are those called to be teachers and pastors, it only seems wise to incorporate those into such gatherings. Thus, a pastor. And once you have a pastor, you pretty much have a church that just happens to meet in a home.

    There can be a lot of flexibility to what a church is, but you need a teacher and a group to discuss and encourage eachother. Preferably, the teacher should be well-trained and knowledgeable, including the original languages and such. This seems to be absent in most small “non-church” movements.

  19. Pastor M said, “I like Bible studies and have benefitted both from leading and participating in them, but how do we avoid simply ‘pooling our ignorance?'”

    Our small group at church is currently studying a book of the Bible. I think that it has been wonderful, even though none of us are really scholars (ok, our junior pastor shows up sometimes, but most of the time it is just the group).

    However, I also do not feel too concerned with “pooling our ignorance”, as we bring almost as many types of Bibles as people. Having reading notes, language notes, etc., by multiple boards of review really can make for great discussion and insight. That is part of the reason my wife and I intentionally don’t use the same Study Bible – multiple books means multiple insights.

  20. Pastor M:

    That’s Protestantism’s perennial problem, and it is only solved by leaving Protestantism or choosing what authority confession, community or individual within Protestantism will be authoritative. Of course some evangelicals speak as if they had universal authority, and this can be seductive because it sounds so helpful, but it just doesn’t work. We have a decision to make. Of course, I love Protestantism because it respects my conscience, which many churches do not.

  21. As one who has read William Hendrick’s Exit Interviews I’m really looking forward to what you have to say about “leavers”.

  22. I won’t say much about them. I will be saying a lot to them.

  23. Michael,
    This post hits ground zero in my life right now. As someone who (I suppose it’s arguable) takes the bible, my faith, and the need for community seriously, I can count one time in the last 6+ months I’ve attended any service. That’s the last time I “checked in”. I just can’t buy it anymore. I’ve looked into RCC, ACNA, CC/DoC, UCC, and even going back to my old RM/CoC. I just come away with the feeling that I’m trading one boiling pot for a caulron, or another frying pan for a fire.

    I freely admit that my hangups are quite likely my own doing, but I am beginning to suffer the consequences. I am at a loss as to break the logjam. I would like to give Jesus and myself a chance, but I still wonder if the chance has passed me by.

    I’m looking forward to any more you have to say, because I am realizing just how lost I am in this wilderness.

  24. iMonk;

    That works too. Looking forward to what you have to say, as I suspect it will help in the work the Lord seems to be leading me into.

  25. I think that one of the more formative and important experiences that a Christian can have is to disagree with the church from within. It gives us the opportunity to practice love for one another in spite of disagreement in theology/practice. While I’m not the greatest Bible scholar ever, I do think that one thing that seems obvious is that Jesus didn’t come to establish a perfect religious practice. The Jews at the time it seemed already had that, or at least He gave them that. But I don’t think it will ever be possible for fallible humans to find perfect belief/practice. I think Jesus’ concern is for one’s heart in the matter. By all means, perfect your belief/practice, but not at the expense of your love for one another. Otherwise we loose sight of the Gospel. And that can quickly become a scarring experience.

  26. I agree with the posters who question iMonk’s assumption that “the Bible” ought to be the ultimate authority. To my way of thinking, the Bible contains both good parts and bad parts.

    I am also suspicious of another assumption which I perceive to be present here–that churches are primarily about believing certain things, and that it is very important to believe the right things; that church members ought to agree. I prefer a more Jewish approach which prizes independence and diversity of thought above doctrinal conformity, and sees scripture as existing only in balance with the needs of its readers.

  27. I feel our American culture’s hyper-individualistic and idolatrous emphasis on self makes it almost impossible to understand who we are as created creatures according to the scriptures. I’m not sure your “check into” but don’t necessarily “buy into” idea” goes nearly far enough toward correcting this imbalance as is needed. I do like the direction “check into” is moving in, but question if it has enough energy to accomplish the needed task.

    You have a far more practical approach to teaching than I do, and probably a better understanding of how people receive and process new information and ideas. That said, I’d still like to see you push it farther.

    I don’t know how much you “buy into” N.T. Wright’s views as expressed in his recent book “Justification”, but I’d love to see you develop a picture of Christianity as big and powerful as his, but concordant with your more Baptist understanding of life with God and others. Something, in other words, within the frame of a “Jesus Shaped Spirituality”. Something bigger than me, if you know what I mean.

    I’m sorry I missed you and the experience of Cornerstone this year. I first came across you there last year when a woman was giving you trouble for daring to celebrate Christmas. I’d planned to be there this year too, but life happened.

  28. Werther: With all due respect, I’m not sure what a Jewish view of scripture, which wouldn’t even contain the New testament, and a stated assumption that the needs of readers have more authority that scripture actually does by way of response to my post.

    Should my counter be that I’d suggest we all adopt a Buddhist approach to religion? Exactly where does that go?

    “Train departing the entire Christian worldview now leaving the station.”

  29. Justin,
    I don’t believe that God has passed you by. You are still seeking Him, and that means a whole lot.

    I don’t have any answers for you, but some wisdom that I recieved in my journey, Two different Catholic priests said, “In God’s Time”

    That was just so very different from the “Wretched Urgency” that I had grown up under, it was quite refreshing.

    Because of my own history, and being dissapointed by people who consider themselves Christian, I go (or try to) to each new church situation with ZERO expectations. That way, if I’m right, no harm, and if I’m wrong then that is just pure chocolate

  30. ……i cant think of anything in the current church model infrastructure worthy of salvage..it ALL needs to be scraped..church doors padlocked and preachers put to work…after that if anyone still feels “called” then we give them a C.B. radio…..what we DESPERATELY need from God right now is a new MARTIN LUTHER……..

  31. Ironically, Mike, Luther did exactly NONE of the things you recommend.

  32. cermak_rd says

    I’m curious what it is you’ll say to leavers. And just what category of leaver you’re addressing. Many of the leavers I know have left religion completely behind and seem to suffer no absence from it. Others, like myself, embrace other religions so have nothing particularly to do with Christianity. I read your site to try to keep an understanding of the faith that some members of my family still maintain, but I never imagine you’re addressing me in your posts because I am no longer part of the Christian community.

  33. Since my contract is with a Christian publisher, I’m writing a book within Christian parameters. It wouldn’t be worth their time to pay me to applaud those who abandoned the faith.

    My overall approach is to outline a Jesus shaped spirituality, not a church shaped spirituality. So I am talking to leavers who still relate to the faith.

    I’m doing apologetics or sayng abandoning the Christian God is the way to go. I recognize those choices, but I don’t see much to say about it from my side.

  34. cermak_rd says

    OK. I was curious. I didn’t know there were leavers who still embraced the Christian faith who didn’t form a house church or belong to one. It seems as though anyone who left a church but still believed would try to find another church that was more amenable to them or start one.

    Good luck with your book. I might actually buy it!

  35. I suppose my family and I are now practically “leavers”. Not really sure if we’ll find a way to become much else again.

  36. Brian wrote: “Do you categorize “leavers” as individuals (as myself) that left the institutional church (any denomination) to gather with fellow believers in our homes with no pastor/laity heirarchy?

    We minister to one another, love one another, and learn about Christ and His Word together. We also help others in our neighborhood and community.”

    Brian, in Central Ohio, we call that Xenos Christian Fellowship, a church comprised of dozens of home churches throughout the city, and while a few of us out of several thousand were “leavers” (including myself – long story) before becoming involved in Xenos, many are converts to Christ and many were raised in evangelical denominations.

  37. My father was an alcoholic (and a Christian). Years and years ago, my mother, while lamenting our problems, said to a (Christian) friend, “Where’s the church?” That friend said (in all love), “You are the church.” I don’t know why I feel compelled to share that, but I do.

    I left/grew out of/backslid from church during my college years. I was going to a Christian college that mandated chapel attendance, 3x/week. Additionally, my home church was pastored by someone who should not have been in the position (and eventually left the ministry, so I don’t feel like I’m telling tales out of school). Eventually, my (at marriage — RCC) husband and I found our way to church (because marriage was this hard, grown-up proposition, yo). My church drives me completely CRAZY as often as not, but the people there are seeking to follow Christ, and I suppose I drive them ’round the bend, as often as not, but I too long to follow my Lord Jesus.

    If/since we’re to be good ‘Bereans’ — I think your: “We should ‘check in’ with the church, but not necessarily ‘buy in’ to everything the church is saying about the Bible…” is good counsel, Michael. Christianity is a group-thang. The fire in our bellies fades without the kindling of others. But? Dealing with other people (and/or/especially other Christian people) is HARD. It’s also part of the point: Love your God with all your heart and mind; love your neighbor as yourself.

    In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis compares theology to a map that thousands of pilgrims have previously recorded (not his words at all, but he does compare it to a map). A lot of times, I think, because I can’t stand all the freaking humans in the church, I struggle with accepting/understanding/familiarizing myself with that theology that thousands of brothers and sisters have already struggled with, and I have to remind myself to take a deep breath.

    There was a point to this all, I’m sure, Michael, but my kids (who stayed up too late watching the All-Star Game) kept interrupting. At any rate, your point is taken. I sort of HATED my church over the last few months, but not because of biblical interpretation — just because they’re human and so am I. But I need them, and (maybe once I clean up my act) they (will) need me — not as an authority, but as my help-meets along my journey in the Master’s footsteps.

  38. Justin,
    You are not alone in the wilderness. Trust me. I don’t know if you’re a long time reader of this blog but if you dig into the posts and comments, you will find there are a lot of people wandering near you. I am one of them and I want to encourage you not to give up. I’m pretty sure Jesus is out here too.

  39. Count me and my family as “almost leavers” – and we would love to buy the book. We have been long-time lurkers at this blog – something that keeps us trying to go to church.

  40. Surely we can learn *something* from the approaches of other religions, especially one so closely related to early Christianity as Judaism.

    You speak of “the” Christian worldview, but in fact there are more than one. Conservative Protestant readings are not the only possibility, or even the majority view. Many “leavers” might consider a liberal church. But a group in which dissidents are accused / threatened with having “departed traditional Christianity” would probably not be attractive to them.

    All Christian groups pick and choose from the Bible. I think this is healthy, or can be at least. It is no accident, for example, that we emphasize the Sermon on the Mount, and not the blood oaths. No one, I assume, maintains anymore that St. Paul’s writings on slavery represent the most enlightened view of the subject. Different churches are now arguing over his views of gender relations and homosexuality.

    Note that this is not solely a matter of intepreting Paul, but also involves deciding how much authority to ascribe to his writings. I am personally inclined to believe that Paul was wrong about a great many things. Protestants of a certain stripe may think me wicked for this, but I submit that Christianity is richer for this flexibility.

  41. Mark Borzillo says

    As always, one should search the scriptures for God’s purpose for the church. In the most practical sense, there is strength in numbers. An association of churches can support a missionary better than one church; the church appears to be the vehicle for individual members to be able to use their gifts effectively; the church gives accountability; it is the Bride of Christ. Lots could be written here, but I think the lone ranger trend among Christians is bad.
    Mark

  42. Werther, I agree that Paul was wrong about some things too, and I know that many Christians would find me wrong about that. At the very least, he was wrong that Jesus was coming back very soon.

    There was some talk about versions of the Bible above. I hope Michael does a post sometime about the various versions. I have a number of them at home and have not been able to “land” on mainly using one version, but I would like to, just so I can stick with something and just refer to the others if I don’t understand a passage in the one I am reading. And I would need a version that includes the books that the Catholics maintain are scripture. I LOVE the Book of Wisdom which the Protestants do not consider to be part of the Bible. Michael, I know you like the ESV. (I think I have that correct.)

    I read Sara Miles’ book “Take This Bread” and was impressed by the option of having open Communion…anyone walking through the door was welcome to receive the bread and wine that was consecrated. I understand the scripture citations that people would cite to say that this should not happen, but as I mentioned to Michael privately, back in the first century Christianity was brand new and people really needed to understand how Communion was different than the pagan celebrations they participated in. Now, there are so many people who are lost, messed-up, whatever, and if they could walk into any church and receive Communion, perhaps, like Sara Miles, they could begin a life of being transformed into the body of Jesus.

    I think it is often healthy for people to leave the church that they have been worshiping in for something else. Often, the churches are preaching fear and hate under the guise of God. People who leave often don’t know where to go and thus, they are on their own for a while. Thank God that Michael and others online can help people through their writings while the people attempt to figure out what to do.

    (Michael…if I have gotten off-track in my comments too far, feel free to delete or modify.)

  43. I have been searching for Christian community for almost 40 years. I have enjoyed relational intimacy, good teaching, and the overtly miraculous, and have also endured idiocy, hypocrisy, manipulation and self-aggrandizement. I am still searching…and waiting.

    It seems that, at the root of things is the meaning of “church.”

    If, in searching for the Kingdom, I walk into a tavern and look around and find nothing of “spiritual value”, I leave with a good conscience. If I then walk into a “Christian business” and discover the same money-centric behavior and attitudes as any other business, I leave with a good conscience.

    If, however, I walk into a building emblazoned with Christian symbols and words and, as with the other places, find nothing of spiritual value, my conscience has been trained to reject my discernment. Instead, I should:
    a) not “forsake gathering together,”
    b) suspend my “worldly” perspective and accept the (apparently hidden) spiritual reality that this is His church, and/or
    c) I should recognize that no place is perfect.

    If you are taught and encouraged by where you meet, God bless you! But even this blog may provide such; and iMonk himself would probably admit this is not “the church.” At least in its fullness.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. The typical “church” today is no more the Church, no more the Kingdom, no more of a Christian community today than is the tavern, albeit with a religious name. I’m not being hateful. It’s just that, until we can face and admit that what we see is not it–even to the point of being “unaffiliated” for a season–we’ll never recognize the Kingdom when it emerges.

    Maybe, just maybe, what we are seeing in the many “leavers” today are those who are responding–perhaps unconsciously–to God’s “…removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”

    Until then, we can “seek first His kingdom”, and we can pray: “Thy Kingdom come….”

  44. Savannah,

    I also was raised to know Christ in a denomination. I would never say that is wrong. I have many friends that attend different denominational churches. I just wanted to make sure what Imonk meant by “leavers”. I left the heirarchial church structure, but I have not left Christ’s Church.

    I think Imonk was talking about the people that left the body of Christ.

    Swanny

  45. I am talking about people who have left the church, but still consider themselves to have a spirituality and relate to the faith.

  46. leaving the church = leaving the community of Christ’s Body?

    Right?

  47. Uh….

    Only if you believe somebody’s group of people with their names on a list = the body of Christ.

    I don’t think you are going to find that in the NT.

    We have to quit making the church into the mediator. Only one of those.

    ms

  48. iMonk, thank you for simply acknowledging that many of us who have left Christianity are still great admirers of Jesus and still draw some spiritual sustenance from the Bible. Few of us who had real a engagement with Christianity chucked it all out the window when we left.

  49. agreed

  50. Ran V… just wanted to say that I agree with your statement about churches in general and found your example (tavern vs christian business vs church) to be discerning. After growing up in evanglical churches, my wife and I have not been to a church in 6 months. We left the traditional church 3 years ago, and have left 3 house churches since then. Although we parted on good terms with all, it was still sad. I have repeatedly tried to boil the essentials down in my mind. You spoke of community, that is one of the essentials to me. A heartful commitment relationships and to the good of the others in the group. I come to 2 more though. One is to have a core passion for Jesus, and the other is to have a leader/fascilitator who does not assume a top – down power/money structure. I don’t think I can distill my church requirements down more than those 3 things. But honestly, I have not found a church in all of Kansas City with these…