Monday, February 1, 2010

Looking in Stained Glass Windows

Since resigning as pastor, I now find myself on the outside of the "institutional church."  That doesn't mean I don't attend church. I attend worship every Sunday, but I don't have one church I call home. I am definitely not an integral part of any congregation. I am a "visitor" who is asked to sign colored cards, bulletin inserts and attendance books.

It is a strange experience for one who has spent the last thirty years at the center of congregational life. Now I am outside the stained glass windows looking in. I attended a dinner for pastors and spouses last week. It was nice, but I did not really belong.

I have been attending a small Baptist church most of the time since my resignation. I have also attended a large Evangelical Free Church nearby a couple of times. Most recently I have been attending a Presbyterian church. When vacationing in New Hampshire, I attend the multi-denominational church where I used to serve as pastor years ago. I feel like a man without a denomination as well as without a church.

In Revelation 11:1 the apostle John was given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple and the people worshiping in it. That is what I feel like I am doing. It is hard to find a church that measures up. I have become one of those people I used to disdain: "church shoppers." I feel judgmental sometimes, but I am really just looking for spiritual community.

I even find myself wondering if "organized religion" is my thing any more. It is a strange thought for one who has spent his entire adult life as a leader of organized religion.  I am meeting with a friend tonight who is talking about starting a house church. George Barna says that is the future of the Church, but I don't know if it is my future.

During this time my refuge has been my devotional life. My spiritual life is deeper and richer than ever before. Freed from the incessant need to find a message to deliver to my church, I am open to hear God speak to me.

That is probably why I am drawn to the Book of Revelation. John was without a church on the isle of Patmos when he had this vision of God and his church. He is commanded to measure the temple - the institutional religion of his day. Perhaps in the act of measuring the temple, which in the New Testament epistles is the symbol for both the Church (Ephesians 2:21) and the individual Christian (I Corinthians 3:16), I will see how I measure up.

1 comment:

  1. I know all too well the feeling Marshall. I've just finished writing about it. Wish I could give you a copy of the book NOW but, of course, it's at the publisher for final edit and release in May. But, I've entitled it The Enoch Factor: Sacred Art of Knowing God - and, in many respects, it's about my own awakening to the reality of God's presence outside "organized religion" as you call it. I wish you the same on your journey. Blessings fellow traveler.