The Un-Blessed Assurance of Smug Christians

uptight pews

The late Mike Yaconelli was one one of those writers who puts interesting quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I’m reading “Messy Spirituality” right now and it looks like he was influenced by some of my favorite writers. Here are two that I really liked:

Our churches are filled with people who outwardly look contented and at peace but inwardly are crying out for someone to love them . . . just as they are – confused, frustrated, often frightened, guilty and often unable to communicate even within their own families. But the other people in the church look so happy and contented that one seldom has the courage to admit his own deep needs before such a self-sufficient group as the average church meeting appears to be – Keith Miller

He who thinks he is finished is finished. How true. Those who think that they have arrived,have lost their way. Those who think they have reached their goal, hae missed it. Those who think they are saints, are demons.- Henri Nouwen

Is it like that in your church? Is everyone that sure of their salvation? Are they so sure of what it takes to be saved, that, instead of wrestling in the mud with real life problems, they would rather (ad)minister ‘”clear” Biblical remedies? Just look at the above picture; a church so uptight that even the design of it’s pews scream “don’t invade my space!”

In Belfast there is a church, Ikon, that has no pews. Nor do they have an altar, stained glass windows or a belfry. The community meets primarily in pubs, a different one each week and rarely on Sunday. They take turns leading the worship service and they enlist local musicians and poets to participate. The lone fellow who always sits in the corner booth may be asked to assist with communion.

Sure, this may not be the vest venue for recovering alcoholics. But it looks to be a great way for getting those folk who are just a bit too “messy” for church exposed to the Gospel. It’s also a great way for everyone to benefit from getting to know people you would never find in a church pew. Of course, there is some risk in getting to know people who are different than we are. You can be assured of that.

Which model most appeals to you?


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  1. #1 by ric booth on June 17, 2008 - 11:00 am

    I would have to attend and participate in a pub-based worship gathering but I imagine some (possibly many) are Spirit led and filled.

    The church gathering I have come to like a great deal is blogosphere. It meets daily. It has everyone of every type. It has no pews. People come from all over the globe to share something that either makes me laugh or think or pray or all of the above. Every day. When I contribute in a thoughtful or creative way, I experience the most incredible worship. I don’t always agree but I always return. Its kinda ironic to find in this virtual world so many real people.

  2. #2 by netprophet on June 17, 2008 - 4:05 pm

    The whole World is “filled with people who outwardly look contented and at peace but inwardly are crying out for someone to love them” . . .I think you’ll find in any organized group of religious people, those who believe they have arrived or at least have duped themselves into believing their salvation is secure and there is no more required of them that the Holy Spirit won’t lead them to discover.

    When we ride the same train for a long while, we trust that it will surely reach our final destination safely. We have a tendency to ignore the fact that the view outside the window has changed and some of the landmarks we once used to assure us we were on the right train, have disappeared into a lake of apathy, or at the least, are becoming overgrown by the weeds of contentment.

    I imagine a person who stinks of being pious usually does sit alone in his own phew. 🙂

  3. #3 by amzolt on June 18, 2008 - 8:11 am

    I grew up in an evangelical church and my parents were both ministers.

    Confused the hell out of me for many years.

    One thing that my autocratic father said that made him a gem in my eyes ( after he’d retired from the ministry ): “I’d rather have a good walk in the woods then sit in a church and listen to someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

    ~ Alex

  4. #4 by rogueminister on June 18, 2008 - 8:50 am

    Amen to all of the above. I am going to miss beer when I return to the states because the seminary I will be attending does not allow students to use alcohol or tobacco. What a shame. I do love the idea of church meeting in a pub. In fact there is at least one church like that in Nashville, I hope to visit it sometime when we get home.

  5. #5 by b4dguy on June 19, 2008 - 12:57 pm

    I think I used that Nouwen quote in a blog somewhere (or I meant to do so).

    Great book, btw. His other book is equally compelling (Dangerous Wonder). Are you reading the update version with an intro from his widow?

    Let me know when you are finished, we can talk about the book over beers.


  6. #6 by soulstrings on June 25, 2008 - 2:12 pm

    I really need to pick Messy Spirituality up. Yaaaay I’m finally back in the blogging world! This post raises many thoughts and questions in my mind. I think I would definitely go with the pub!

  7. #7 by Christian on June 26, 2008 - 1:49 am

    Welcome back lady. Been too long.

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