November 9, 2009

Church Experiment #45: Personal Church

[You can tell I’m starting to hit the wall when I have a chapter titled Personal Church in my 52-week spiritual journey.] As I spent time reflecting on last week’s emotional roller coaster, I realized something. My readers have become part of my spiritual community. I specifically mentioned my Vineyard family in that chapter, but this experiment has morphed into much more than words on paper. It would be strange if many of you suddenly disappeared. There are too many names to list, but you guys have become another form of spiritual community for me. We’ve laughed, cried, debated, and bonded. If this was only a book, I would have quit months ago.

This experiment hasn’t just been about visiting churches; it’s been about the dialogue you guys have created. Perhaps more than the visits themselves, that dialogue has helped me learn and grow. I am so thankful for that. I encourage everyone reading this book to join our diverse tribe of ragamuffins (to borrow a term from Brennan Manning).

I definitely experienced an emotional hangover this week. After my “epiphany” that the purpose of church is to experience spiritual community in ways that resemble our biological families, I wasn’t excited about showing up at some random church. Next week, things will be back to normal, but this week, I decided to organize my own personal church experience.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


Dan said...

Wow! I need to chew on these words a while. There's a lot wrapped up in your piece this week.

Cindy said...

I was just thinking I wonder how "personal church" would have went at the beginning of this adventure.

From the outside it seems that week 45 allowed it the space it needed to happen and the wisdom from the past weeks makes it more personal.

I do appreciate this journey and want to say thanks for sharing. I had my faith shattered by a church I served in and I struggle deeply with trusting/serving the machine that can be church.

Reading along your journey as opened my eyes/heart a bit.

Blackbeauty said...

Hi Steve and everyone else, I’ve got a looooooooooooot of catching up to do. For one, I’m captivated by your blog. Two, just earlier today I happen to land on your blog and I’ve read Church Experiment #5, #10 and now #45. Our wonderful, anointed man of God, church Pastor just preached his last sermon and had his last service with us yesterday and is moving out of the area –going miles away : ( and I’m taking it in stride as is the rest of the congregation and leaving it in God’s hand. And lastly, you got me all teary eyes with #45.

You cover quite a few things with this post #45 that resonate soundly with me. Thank you for sharing! I pray and hope you’ll continue on with this blog / this spiritual community, “You guys have become part of my spiritual community”, as you so put it. I for one I’m looking forward to logging on for as long as you’ll have it.

I'm presently a member of - The Redeemed Christian Church of God in New Hampshire. I was raised in the Christian Faith. From my preteen years until now I'm still praying and seeking God's truth for His people. I've had my experiences with these churches: Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness and now with RCCG.

I specially like the passage you read from the Bible. JESUS WEPT; we need to remember that indeed He’s with us, just as He said He would, all the time- Joshua 1:9.
2 Kins13:23… our God is gracious, merciful and compassionate.

Let us seek the face of God as we continue in prayer and God the almighty shall hear our prayers, have mercy on us in Jesus' name. Jeremiah 29:13..."And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."

~~~In spirit we press on~~~

Lydia said...

I cannot tell you how much your blog this(and last) week reflects what I am seeing all around me. So many of my friends and acquaintances have lost loved ones recently. Although I am not the one in deep grieving, I am with them, and I see the pain they are experiencing, and I am so sad to see them go through this. I see how abandoned they feel.

Yesterday our band at church sang "All I need is you, Lord". I looked at the guy next to me in church and said, well, you know He is the only one that won't leave you. His response? True.

People are passing through this life. Sometimes they leave you by betrayal, distance or death. But any way you look at it, sooner or later everyone leaves.

What does that leave me with? I need to be just reliant on Christ. He experienced it all, He knows. He crossed behind the veil and is the only one that never leaves. He has to be the anchor of my soul. Between my personal life, and what you are saying right now, I see that more than ever.

The challenge I see is keeping my trust in Him, not in man or money. It is much easier to see it and say it than to do it. I guess that is the battle we fight until we step off this planet.

On a side note: thanks for the wonderful videos/music -- each of them were very compelling. But I especially love Johnny. What a great man.

Be blessed today, Steve.

inthedesert said...

Your comments led me to a story in Mark's gospel about a believer who says "if" and Jesus catches that "if" as doubt. The striking response from the believer is this...Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" -Mark 9:24
I think that is what we have to do-- we have to turn to Jesus and ask him to help us with our unbelief. As believers. Hmmm. I love that Jesus thought of everything. One sentence in the book of Mark- to help me be OK with my struggle.

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks Steve for posting your thoughts and ideas so candidly every week - I read each time but don't always make the time to comment. It's nice to know that others are going through the same struggles and know how hard - and yet gloriously worthwhile - it is to relearn each day to accept grace and try harder.

Margaret (in Manitoba) said...

Ok - so I still can't remember/reset my Google ID but at least this time I'm not posting as Anonymous.....

Thank you for sharing this process with us (I know it hasn't always been easy). Your words and this journey we are on with you has done more to restore my faith than I can possibly say.

ps - I wish there were more church services like "yours" this week. I might actually consider going back to church if they were.

Jen - Mom of 4 said...

This was a wonderful post. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend and will keep his family and friends in my prayers.

I do believe that having "personal church" time is important. Jesus often when into the mountains to pray and meditate so he could refresh his soul and become a stronger teacher. I think that we all need to take this type of time frequently.

On the other hand, I strongly believe in having a strong church family - they are the people that will help keep you accountable when it's needed and lend support when you are weak and in need of help.

Steve, you are doing an amazing job - please keep it up! I can't believe your journey is almost at an end, but I'm looking forward to where it will lead all of us!

Sarah said...

Wonderful post and insights this week Steve...and I, too, am very sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I love the image you got of God's heart breaking...of him crying with your friend's family and friends...beautiful.

Reverb said...

Good stuff Steve. Keep going.

Marfa said...

So sorry to hear about your friend Charlie. I think that your idea that there are 3 elements needed is sweet, but that's still seems "out of church" to me, like something I'd experience on an average day, reading the Bible, listening to a song that hits me deeply with a message. There is MORE. The Sabbath day has been made "lite" by short simple services, skipping over traditions set forth by the Apostles...what about Sacrament? The Holy Spirit seems to be missing. There is a lot of unseen, I am a person who likes tangible things, too, I am trying to make everything into something I can talk about, but I cannot...the Mystery is what makes it all so beautiful.

Marfa said...

I really do hope that this is MORE than just a book to you...I feel like you're just touching the surface, skimming churches, get "deeper."

Liz said...

I rarely comment and many things people have remarked about Steve during this Experiment have been very offensive, but the idea that Steve is just "doing this for a book" is off the mark.

While I certainly can't speak for Steve, I know him well enough to say he didn't start this Experiment with the intention of selling books. He started it out of a genuine question: Why go to church?

And I think he's done a darn good job of authentically sharing his responses regarding that question through this Experiment.

Madre de 8 said...

I found your blog by doing a search for Charlie Matthews. You see, we prayed for him and his family (I attend a Vineyard in Newport News, VA), so I wanted to learn a little more about him. Which led me here :-)
Anyway, I've been going through your blog entries from your journey, and have found them quite interesting and amazing. Your honesty is refreshing, and your perspective is very thought provoking. Anyway, glad to have found your blog... I look forward to the rest of your journey....

Julie said...

Hi Steve, I have never commented yet on your blogs but have followed them and laughed quite a bit... love your humor! I'm a born-again believer since my early 20's, attend a Spirit-filled church (Holy Ghost, tongue-talking, gifts of the Spirit thing). Struggled through the death of a friend at 29, murder of a sibling, auto accident & death of dad and Alzheimer's and death of mom. Not a "call" for a pity party.. just saying I understand the search to understand God through it all. I'm sure when Jesus was crucified, it made NO SENSE to anyone, especially his disciples. You do have to trust blindly that He does know what he is doing. It's hard A LOT of the time (not just some). I read a quote one time that really makes sense and is so true "we live life forward but can only understand it looking backwards". My opinion, as long as you are "seeking" to know the truth, God will guide you through the muck and mire of life and help you sort out who he REALLY is! Keep up the good work!

DanThoms said...

A quick correction for Marfa (just because I like making corrections) Saturday is the Sabbath. (except for Paul because he said everyday was the Sabbath to him)

Anyhow, Steve I always enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up, your almost there. After you finish maybe we will let you visit the VWS a few more times.

Allison said...

I love reading your blog. What a great experiment.

Georgie said...

Thank you. I've been reading for a long time and when I started reading was also in the camp of "anything from church can be done outside of church" - but I miss the "family" part of being involved with a local body of believers.

I haven't been a regular church attender for about 12-13 years and have been strongly considering looking for a church home again. It's become a more pressing issue for me now that I have my own child.

Thank you for this. I have been enjoying your journey.