Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Do We Leave?

He’s more of an acquaintance than a friend; we like each other like friends, we just don’t know each other as deeply as a friendship would indicate. In seminary we had one class – Choral Composition – together. He was already a brilliant keyboardist and already a published arranger with many publications under his belt, but the class was required in the MCM curriculum. The son of an editor for the Music Division of The Baptist Sunday School Board (now known as Lifeway), he grew up about as Baptist as one can get. He didn't really need the seminary degree to be hugely employable (a large church in south Florida asked him to join their staff before he finished his last semester).  He was already better at the nuts and bolts of church music than most seminary graduates with decades of experience. He makes his living now as a freelance composer and arranger for radio, television, and film.  I love his work and admire his talent greatly.

In 2008, he posted a long essay on his blog outlining the top 10 reasons he was quitting the “institutional church.” Well over 20 pages long, it has all the form and content of a paper one would write for a graduate level course, including numerous citations from scripture and from noted scholars both historical and current. I have skimmed it enough (and been a part of the “institutional” church long enough) to understand some of his frustrations. He still loves Jesus and scripture and people who follow Christ. One could even say (as he does in the paper) that he loves the church (by which he means the church as depicted in the New Testament). He has just had it with “institutional churchianity,” which is to say those things that we do as followers of Christ in this day and age that are not specifically found (nor – for many of them – proscribed) in scripture.

I thought about my friend when I read the following in an article by Micah Smith in Relevant Magazine’s online resource this morning:
The problem comes when walking away from the Sunday morning service means walking away from people. From God’s people. From the endless beauty of a common knowledge of a greater good. From people who will serve with you, pray with you, believe in you and fight for you. At the end of the day, the mystery of the Church isn’t a worship song or a sermon. If it is, then, sure, walk out of the building, load up your iPod with church podcasts and worship bands, and never look back. But the reality is that sermons and songs aren’t all that you give up when you walk away. You also sacrifice a community of believers.

My friend insists (and I have no reason to doubt him) that he still finds Christian fellowship, just not as a part of an “organized” church. I understand where he’s coming from … I just can’t help but think that there is a community of faith that is missing what he has to offer … and vice versa.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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