How to find a way forward after the dream of “church” dies

The following email went out to a precious group of pastors and church planters I have been coaching.  Many of them are suffering the death of a dream that grew from the soil of a crumbling and bankrupt concept of “church”.

I share this with you today trusting that my heart is evident – Jesus gave us the church, Jesus paid for the church with his blood, Jesus is the head of the church, and Jesus will build his church.

He has commanded and empowered us to make disciples.  As we attempt to do what only he can do, and neglect doing the one thing he commanded us to do, we find disillusionment and eventually despair.

Yet, hope lives on.  Our repentance will lead us…

We are all survivors of a gut wrenching and wounding experience of discovering first hand that something is terribly wrong with our concept of “church”.  In fact, our long held suspicion that something was broken inside of our local church construct was confirmed when something broke inside of us.  Our dream died a lonely death, and to this day the scar tissue remains.

We all bought into the church myth; a counterfeit system that places organized religious meetings and services as the cause, and making disciples as the desired effect.  As high capacity leaders we pushed ourselves as far as we could go in this system, and then something snapped.

We now live among the ruins.  Our eyes have been opened to its deception and subtle, long term numbing effect on our spirit.  It is a broken cistern that cannot hold water…But our eyes have also been opened to the active role we played (and still play) building and sustaining this system.  In our grief and contempt we wanted to tear it down brick by brick, but discovered along the way that we are dependent upon it.  We also came to realize that the church is the one and only bride of Christ, warts and all.

Deep down we know that we are strangers, impostors of sorts.  We are foreigners living among a people who speak the same words as we do, but are not saying the same thing.  And those who look upon us as strangers are not the godless people of the world, they are the beloved members and leaders of our own churches.

How then shall we live?

What do we do with this sense of loss?  Where do we channel the anger?  Who will help us end our dependency upon the counterfeit and show us how to connect to the real?

Another question that catches us by surprise; who will walk this road with us?  Those who are closest to us, those we have loved most cannot or will not make the journey.  It is not good for man to be alone…

The way forward?  The only way forward is the same way that Jesus described in the Gospels.  “If anyone would be my disciple he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Our hope is in the God of resurrection.  We actually believe that losing our life is the cost to finding life.  We choose love for God and others in spite of the professional and relational set backs.  Hope, faith and love…only as our love for God dominates can we break the gravitational pull.

Those of us who self identify as nomadic wanderers, broken vessels, that lost tribe still searching for a home must come together.

Come together to do what?

  1. To ventilate our grief among fellow mourners
  2. To confess our sin to one another, to pray for one another that we may be healed
  3. To shine the light of the Gospel and expose the ways we perpetuate and benefit from the counterfeit church system
  4. To find courage in each other’s stories and breakthroughs
  5. To become disciples ourselves, so we can invite others into the pursuit
  6. To bless Christ’s church in all her forms, while searching a people he has prepared for us
  7. To bring what is broken into the light, at our own expense

Who is ready?  I have already packed my bags…

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