Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Update (added at 9:00 a.m.): Jim Morrison is out of Zambia, thanks to the American embassy. He's very thankful for all your prayers. Hopefully he'll be back by Sunday. Of course, as you can imagine, there is much difficult emotional work ahead. Thanks for your concern for this good family. - - - - I've pointed you a couple times to the stuff Steve Holt, Jr., is writing here. Check out yesterday's great post on friendship houses. - - - - Also, cruise over to this thought-provoking piece that my buddy Jeff Childers told me about. - - - - As we seek to turn the ship from the direction of consumer-marketing to missional living, we must somehow not make this another "we're-doing-it-righter-than-you" endeavor. We must try to continue to move the church into the world that God loves without a game of "I'm-more-missional-than-you." This won't be sudden. It's engrained in who we are. But it's an essential move to recapture the identity of the people of God. Still, pride has no place. We must call one another into the mission of Christ, commission each other to be ministers in our spheres of influence (and even outside those spheres), and re-imagine how church might look if it sought to live as a blessing for the world. - - - - (I understand that some are having a hard time accessing the comments section today. Not sure why. I just tried republishing.)


  • Excellent piece by Steve. I've noted this before but our young men and women are leading the way in the area of radical living among the lost. The inner-city Impact and Fortress churches are over-run with college interns every summer - kids opting for life on the edge vs. life behind the protective community gate. Suburbia has led to ex-urbia - white flight is probably greatest among devout Christians. Researchers like Barna are expressing concern that new church houses are so homogoneous and sanitized - a neat/tidy part of Planned Urban (ex-urban actually) developments that they can and often do resemble a country club more than anything else. The trend needs to somehow be reversed.

    By Blogger KentF, at 1/26/2006 05:41:00 AM  

  • I like church. I didn't enjoy that article at all. Not that I don't think that there is validity in all aspects of..this insightful piece..article, but I think that there is a wonderful relevance in fellowship with believers for me. I am capable of meeting together with a large body of believers and still reaching out to the broken. I see at church that there are broken believers all around me, including myself, and the fact that we are all at church gives us a common bond and our belief structure is the fundamental rock that binds us together. I find value in the large assembly, hearing the voices of a crowd lifting their praise to God. Do I think that we can be more missional, absolutely, do I think God is moving us that way, absolutely, do I think that God will tap on the hearts of His people to share the Gospel, I think he does in all of us, some of us hear it some choose not to. I have been lost in my life and many years called no church home, now that I have one, I value it. "Live your life in God's call and He will make it count."

    By Blogger Tammy M., at 1/26/2006 06:52:00 AM  

  • Hi Mike.
    I read your comments concerning breaking in a glove for your son. We just found out yesterday that my son (Steven - 10th Grade) just made Cocoa High's (Cocoa, Florida) Varsity Baseball Team!

    We're so proud of him. Good luck to your son in the Basketball game.

    Looking forward to hearing you at Pepperdine this year.

    By Blogger cwinwc, at 1/26/2006 07:00:00 AM  

  • I appreciate your expression, "I'm-more-missional-than-you." Pride is so difficult to shake. I have for a long time imagined Satan as a judo master. If we are prone to complacency, he'll usher us on to fruitlessness; if we are prone to be strong, he'll usher us to pride, which ends in fruitlessness.

    By Blogger Jason Coriell, at 1/26/2006 07:06:00 AM  

  • Tammy -

    I didn't understand the writer to be against warm friendship and nurturing, encouraging relationships within the community of faith. But thanks for your perspective.

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/26/2006 07:14:00 AM  

  • I didn't really get that either, but I did feel like he was saying that if we were addicted to church that we might be well served if we detoxed and found community in homes or neighborhoods that it might help us in the long run. I just don't think that I need to detox from church.

    By Blogger Tammy M., at 1/26/2006 07:19:00 AM  

  • Tammy,
    Some of us need to detox from church as it has become, not the "church" (the people, community, relationships, kingdom fellowship) as it was intended. Church has become, for many, an event. A show. Once-a-week, at that. The assembly has become the primary connecting point for the church and the world. Many recent scholars have been challenging that paradigm, suggesting that our expressions of church and primary connecting points need to be out in the world. I think this is what the author of that article is speaking of when he refers to "detoxing from church."

    What if every person in churches today "detoxed from church" and got addicted to Jesus Christ and his mission?

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 1/26/2006 07:27:00 AM  

  • I believe, including myself, many of us need to "detox" from church simply because we have defined our whole existence on the one hour of Sunday morning.

    That being said, we depend totally on how we act in that one hour as to whether we are saved and therefore, we have a hard time sharing the good news with someone else. We are so focused on our being "right" and doing church (that one hour) "right" that we lose the sense of sharing and caring for the lost.

    By Blogger pegc, at 1/26/2006 07:41:00 AM  

  • Steve Jr. - I appreciate your clarification on that. I definately understand the premise of the once a week show that the author was referring. That is not what church is to me. But I definately know that God does not want us to "play church" he wants us to be church. I don't normally have a negative comment, and if I do I surely don't put it in writing like I did earlier. But I just felt it necessary to say that church is not bad. I must be answering God's call in my life, and not let myself just sit by and watch.

    By Blogger Tammy M., at 1/26/2006 07:44:00 AM  

  • Did I really say "thanks to the American embassy"? Sometimes I don't sound like a Christian minister. I think what I meant was, "thanks to God (with the assistance of the American embassy)."

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/26/2006 07:53:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Detox church article was outstanding! Thanks for sharing it.


    By Blogger Brian McCutchen, at 1/26/2006 08:26:00 AM  

  • It is hard to put into words the emotion connected with Jim leaving Zambia. Thank you Jesus seems appropriate. Tears of relief are welling up.

    By Blogger julie, at 1/26/2006 08:52:00 AM  

  • I appreciate Tammy's comments. I look at churches like Willow Creek, Saddleback, North Point, etc. that seem to fit what the "Detox..." author is trying to move us away from, yet those churches are reaching lost people and changing lives. "Church culture" is very much a part of how they operate, but they do so in a way that allows God to work, not be stiffled.

    Seems like the author is close to limiting real Christians to only one context.

    By Blogger Tim, at 1/26/2006 09:00:00 AM  

  • We knew what you meant, Mike.

    So what happens if the seats at Highland are all empty next Sunday?

    By Blogger abileneblues, at 1/26/2006 09:29:00 AM  

  • Tim -

    Excellent point. It's so hard not to think that YES, WE HAVE NOW FOUND THE RIGHT MODEL AND ALL OTHERS ARE WRONG. I'm thrilled with the number of young ministry students thinking about "simple church," "organic church," "house churches," etc. They are needed by the thousands. But that does not mean that larger churches are invalid. But what has tended to happen is that these larger churches have become supermarts, offering the best of religious services.

    Years ago it was a mark of great "success" to build a church up to a thousand. It the future, it may look more like a Korean or African model of church: where the mark of faithfulness isn't the size of one church but the expansion of house churches and the infiltration of a lost community, living and preaching the reign of God.

    By Blogger Mike, at 1/26/2006 10:07:00 AM  

  • There is one aspect of the large church model for which there is no excuse...the tremendous expense of building and maintaining edifices that are built primarily for church "service" and little else. I have trouble with a whole lot more regarding large churches, but this is particularly disturbing. Barna estimates that Christendom has spent about one trillion (with a T) dollars over the past 20 years with no appreciable increase in bringing lost people to Jesus. The vast percentage of that trillion has to be on physical facilities. Shame on us!

    By Blogger MarkS, at 1/26/2006 10:38:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I have a great respect for a head minister of a large church who can mention other church models (house church, organic, etc) in a positive way, like you did in response to Tim.

    Glad to know you and others don't feel threatened by them.

    By Blogger Agent B, at 1/26/2006 11:15:00 AM  

  • Perhaps the famous quote by William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, is a propos in a discussion of the missional church: "the Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members."

    By Blogger Richard, at 1/26/2006 11:39:00 AM  

  • On second thought, wonder what William Temple would think about the notion of detoxing from church???

    By Blogger Richard, at 1/26/2006 11:41:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Leave 2000 member Highland, come to pacific northwest and start a small missional church. I will stop by and see how it's going.

    I won't leave East County Church to attend cause that's shopping around. But I'll visit once and a while.

    Enough of our people have gone to Abilene. It only seems fair.

    By Blogger L, at 1/26/2006 12:40:00 PM  

  • I'm so glad Jim Morrison is coming home! That is wonderful. And you can thank the American embassy, Mike. That's okay. In fact, I think that's good. I mean, how else was God going to work for His good there - or anywhere, any time - except through good people doing good things in this world.

    Which brings me to your topic for the day. I went and read your links and they were good. But I think we DO need to have both a larger body to meet with, along with the smaller groups and "house churches" if we want to call them that.

    Don't you think, Mike, that having both is exactly how the early church(es) operated beginning in Jerusalem? They sometimes came together in one large group, while the rest of the time met in smaller groups daily from house to house.

    We don't really know where all they met around whatever towns and cities they were all in or how often what size groups got together. Some accounts are of very large masses of Christians meeting together with the apostles and leaders at least some of the time and it was all considered "the church," right?

    I'm definitely with you that it is not an either/or situation, but BOTH. There is a time and place for both and on a full time, regular basis.

    As far as spending money on facilities - I'd be the first to cut big bills and cut out a bunch of excessive, extravagent "things." But to condemn big churches and big church buildings across the board isn't right, either, I don't think. If they are functional and utilitarian and being used seven days and nights a week for the community for meetings, gatherings, Bible studies, AA meetings, whatever, then they are well serving their purpose.

    It's just like with everything else we've been given in this life by God, especially here in America. We need to wisely spend and wisely use all we've been given both on a personal level and church level. That includes our time and our relationships with other Christians, with our neighbors, all around town in EVERY neighborhood, in EVERY church group ALL the time.

    Does any of this make sense? It seems pretty straightforward and easy to understand to me if you study the New Testament at all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/26/2006 02:12:00 PM  

  • We know a little bit about the life of first-century Christians. I'll let my NT scholar friends throw in their two cents regarding most of these things. Forgive me, scholars, if I get a minor detail incorrect here or there.

    Here's what I know: Early believers viewed their faith as a lifestyle, and connected at various points with brothers and sisters in Christ nearly every day. They probably were celebrating the Lord's Supper at most meals together. They were also still in the world, meeting in the Temple, and "had the favor of all men." Wow. (do Christians have the favor of all men today?) In short, their emphasis was on "being the church", not "going to church." Sure, it was a semi-oppressive culture toward Christians (though accounts of the persecution has often been over-exaggerated), but I think they chose to meet in homes because that was the most natural, relational "wineskin" available for the early Christians to live out their faith. "Attendance" wouldn't have been in their vocab, I don't think. Really, "church" as we've defined it wouldn't have been in their language -- they were followers of "the Way." Keep in mind that "God was adding to their numbers daily."

    It remained that way until the early 300s when Emperor Constantine passed some political legislation legalizing Christianity and even punishing those who did not join "the Way." He built large cathedrals. Many who did not really know what they were doing joined up. Church became an "attendance thing," and thus began the era of Christendom. For better or worse, church (in the West) for the last seven centuries has seen only a handful of really exciting "multiplication movements" of God, and I believe that is because many were focused more on architecture than Jesus.

    But I (and others) think the big boat of Christendom is creaking to a stop. Some are calling it the "Second Reformation," when the workings of the church is being taken out of the hands of "trained clergy" and put back into the hands of everyday Christians, who look to Christ as the head of the church. Some are calling it a Revolution. Whatever you call it, more and more Christians (and lots of not-yet-Christians) are finding the deepest forms of spiritual growth and fellowship outside of the local church. House churches are just one wineskin through which this is happening -- home-schooling communities, "cyberchurches," family churches, large worship gatherings, and worldview discussion groups are just a few of the many "mini-movements" that God is using to prepare his bride for Christ. (if you want order a $3 CD of George Barna reading portions of his book Revolution, which describes in detail his findings on these mini-movements, click here.)

    Like Mike said, the local church is still working alongside God in announcing his kingdom, and has for 700 years. But the local church (and its members) need to know that a tidal wave of God's spirit is coming to North America (as it has to most of the world already -- just research church growth stats from recent years in Africa, India, Indonesia, or China), and it will be difficult to quantify this movement using our traditional "church growth" methods. The local church needs to realize that God's Spirit cannot be bridled. It will move to and fro, convicting hearts in our cities, and will not be contained by the boundaries of the church walls. We can either join the Spirit in the harvest field, or we can hunker down even more in our cathedrals.

    I know this mini-book I've written sounds very critical of the local church. The truth is, I'm a member in a local church. So are my parents. I love the local church. But I see God moving in powerful ways outside the local church, and I want to join Him there. I also believe that this movement outside the local church is one of the only ways that disciples can be equipped and released quick enough to keep up with the growing U.S. population and declining Christian population. US Christianity goes in the hole 6 million people every year, and our churches need to be multiplying more like rabbits than elephants to keep up with this. But the great thing is, God is going to do all this -- we just need to be aware of His workings and be obedient. We don't need to "try hard" to plant a certain number of churches or make a quota of baptisms -- we just need to plant seeds of faith in people we know every day.

    God will give the increase.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 1/26/2006 03:01:00 PM  

  • The "detox from church" article is certainly interesting. My first thought was that people wanting to detox need to go overseas and work where this American idea of "church" has not been the norm for a long time, if ever. Witnessing (and trying to find a place in) the consumer-driven church has been among the strangest and hardest parts of returning stateside for me.

    Recently I was asked to address the topic of how to create meaningful relationships in our large church. I was tempted to say, "It isn't possible. This isn't what church was ever supposed to be."

    I didn't say that. And I know that some people in our church have been able to create real community within the larger framework. But it's sad to hear people talk about how very difficult it is simply to make a friend and really get to know them, and how stuck the leaders feel in trying to address these needs. And how infrequently the idea of Christocentric relationship is brought up in these conversations.

    I teach in my church, but the truth is that most of my real fellowship and most of my own sharing of the hope within me, happens in places and relationships that have little or nothing to do with the place and the people I see on Sunday mornings.

    May God give wisdom and insight. We need it.

    By Blogger Sheila, at 1/26/2006 07:00:00 PM  

  • Just catching up on my blog reading and saw the tragic news regarding Jim Morrison. We went to church with Jim and Tracy in Spartanburg, SC. Please give them our love and let them know they are in our prayers.

    Thanks, Mike.

    Lynn Trigg

    By Blogger Lynn, at 1/26/2006 07:46:00 PM  

  • Don't know if anyone is still engaged in this discussion. Another day/another post. But for those who might be; a comment on Steve Jr.'s ideas. Steve said: "We can either join the Spirit in the harvest field, or we can hunker down even more in our cathedrals."

    There might be a third option: That God will still use some of our "cathedrals" to change lives and reach lost people. If that ever ceases, hopefully those of us who are still part of those cathedrals will catch another wave.

    Steve, I'm glad God is using you and a whole bunch of other folks like you to build this new wave. Some of us may be late in catching it. We're going to both ride out the one we're on as long as it has life (but hopefully not past that point) while cheering you on.

    By Blogger Tim, at 1/27/2006 05:34:00 AM  

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