When I was a senior in high school I led a revolt at band camp.
Revolt, riot, ruckus… it fell in there somewhere. My memory is a little foggy now (though it must be vivid to Steve Phillips as he brings up this story more regularly than I’d like), but I think it involved the cafeteria, a silverware-banging protest in the spirit of civil disobedience, sly words exchanged from director to student and eventual parental intervention. But let’s not get caught up in the details!
The point is that I have a history of rebelling against institutions that don’t make sense to me. Steve Phillips says I like to “stick it to the man” (which may have been my mantra that fateful afternoon in the mess hall). I’d like to think that I don’t so much just like to stick it to the man (rebel without a cause) as I genuinely like systems and institutions and rules to make sense. If they don’t, it rubs me the wrong way.
Just to give one more example of this sentiment and to let you know how deeply it runs inside of me… Earlier in high school I wrote a short story. A man was stopped at a red light late at night. No other cars were coming from the green light’s direction, yet the light refused to change and allow the opposing traffic it’s turn. In the story my main character boldly exits his vehicle, climbs on the roof and gives a Braveheart-worthy speech to the adjacent cars. He re-enters his car and with one arm out the window pointing the way he leads a mass red light running exodus through the intersection.
I get all choked up just thinking about it again. Man, I respect that guy (this coming from the guy who actually cried the first time he saw Braveheart).
Take that attitude and put it inside a teenage and early 20’s guy who is a part of the Church in America and even helping lead a small portion (this is where it gets good). That was/is me! And, while my home fellowship was a little a-typical, I started to get the urge to Braveheart-speech my way through the red lights of the Church in the West.
My Dad is a church planter pastor and I’ve lived in a house where the bookshelves are speckled with spines like “Grow Your Church from Small to Big,” “Grow Your Church from Big to Small,” “Church 2.0,” “Church 3.0,”and “Church 3.1” (not to be confused with Windows 3.1, which I still feel is the only reliable operating system and what I’m using to compose this blog). I’m exaggerating but trying to get at the heart.
I looked around and I saw a lot of people trying to invent and reinvent how we “do” church. Lots of leaders in the Church trying to tap into the fresh and cool way of putting on a service. I remember sitting in on a meeting with a friend of mine about the lighting setup in the worship building. They were talking about the best way to do and some different idea of what to try. My friend, whom I respected a lot, asked for my input at the end. The snotty 19 year old that I was replied “I think unless the lighting is just right the Holy Spirit won’t show up.” I got punched for that.
I’m not trying to speak badly about the Church because I love the Church. Jesus loves the Church. He calls it his beautiful bride. But every instinct inside of me wanted to stick it to the man and lead a civil protest against a broken system.
It wasn’t until two summer’s ago now that I got to spend a weekend with some people that helped bring clarity to the tension…
(more to come in part 2)