The church has a long history of pot-stirrers and righteous troublemakers. Every now and then, a group of people start asking questions from within, disrupting the peace, challenging the system, and driving the church back to biblical principles. The protestant movement was born when Martin Luther directly confronted the practices of the Catholic church. Various groups of dissenters arose over the next few centuries, rejecting a form of religion they saw as unhealthy and unhelpful. Most of our congregations and doctrines today have arisen from the efforts of the dissenters and protesters of the past.
Last year, Alan Knox cheekily wrote an article naming me as a troublemaker in the church (and many readers at Sermon Central would probably agree), because I ask questions about the way we meet, the way we learn and the way we lead. The irony, of course, is that Alan is continually provoking people to rethink how we assemble as the church. He also named fellow mischief-maker Miguel Labrador, who is always willing to tackle heavy questions front-on, generating robust discussions. I’d like to add a few more names to the list of modern-day dissenters – a few of my personal favourites, whose blogs I read regularly. If you haven’t already come across him, make sure you check out Jeremy Myers – he writes thought-provoking articles and e-books which will shake up some of your assumptions about church. Then there’s Eric Carpenter, who is currently working with Jeremy on a book called “What we’re for” (I’m a contributor). Make sure you read some of Eric Hatfield‘s blog too – a fellow Aussie with a delightful talent for dry sarcasm. Keith Giles is another one who is willing to subvert the establishment and rattle a few cages. One of the newest additions to the network is Richard Jacobson, whose clever videos and cartoons add another medium for communicating some of the issues in the modern institutional church.
I’d like to give a special mention to the most visible and audible presence in the worldwide church today, Pope Francis, who (to my very great joy and delight) is willing to butt heads with the hierarchy and speak out against “clericalization” of the church. What a legend!
Through this blog and Twitter, I’m connecting regularly with pastors and laypeople who are willing to take on the establishment, ask hard questions, take risks, and grapple with a new way of “doing church”. You know who you are! Thank you for being willing to step out on this journey, which could bring so much change in your local church and beyond.
I’m so grateful for these many people whose voices are rising up to ask questions about the way we do church. I’m convinced God’s church is robust enough to cope with a good shakedown, and come out healthier at the other end. Questions need to be asked – and some people are brave enough to ask them. Jesus himself had no problem confronting religious practices gone sour. Please let me know if there are any writers or speakers who have inspired you to question and rethink church practices today, and where that journey is taking you.
This page, originally posted on February 25, 2014, is recovered from the now defunct Church in a Circle blog, and re-published by permission, because I think the material is valuable.