Our Faith Journey 4 - What Church Looks Like Now

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In the fourth and final installment of our Faith Journey series we’ll show you the model we aspire to and examples of times we feel we got close.

If you’re new to this series you can read:

  1. Our Backstory
  2. Church Sampling & Disillusionment
  3. Tearing Apart and Rebuilding Church

Jesus’s Example

In Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More, author Wayne Jacobeson has a simple but revolutionary theory:

What if Jesus chose to show us what church should look like, rather than tell us?

Some quotes from Finding Church:

Jesus didn’t talk much about church at all, mentioning it only twice. He said simply that he would build it and he gave counsel about dealing with someone who is wittingly or unwittingly destroying it.

Maybe he didn’t talk so much about the church because it was not the means to his end. What if he knew it was simply the fruit of his working and that it takes shape quite easily wherever people learn to follow him?

If so, then Jesus really did tell us all we need to know about the church by not talking about it.

So, what if when he was walking the countryside with his disciples, talking to a woman at a well, seated in Zaccheus’s home having lunch, or relaxing in Bethany, he was showing us what his church looks like?

So when Jesus spent time with the Samaritan woman at a well, told the story of the Good Samaritan, or embraced Peter with prayer before and love after his betrayal, he was showing us how the church lives.

Its teaching is more like a conversation about faith in the stern of a boat after a fierce storm than it is a lecture from a pulpit with a Powerpoint presentation looming in the background. Its gatherings look more like a meal in the upper room than people sitting in rows of pews or theater seats. And its leadership is better expressed at washing dirty feet than sitting in a council meeting fighting over the budget.

We Complicate Church

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Wayne goes on to describe what happens when people try to make church more complicated than Jesus’s example of simply loving the people God puts in our paths.

It’s a familiar story to those of us brought up in the institutional church - buildings, schedules, programs, titles, budgets, and projects.

It’s the abandonment of grace in favor of a system of legalistic religious performance.

Our Uncomplicated Model

We’re still figuring this out. It’s still awkward at times. We still miss moments and talk later about what we should have done instead.

40+ years of church experience is tough to unravel and unlearn.

We:

  • Stopped “outsourcing” our faith journey to professionals and prefer a sharing economy between amateurs
  • Don’t go (to church) - we are (the church)
  • Try to love the people God puts in our path
  • Don’t try to schedule “church” or force an agenda in any situation
  • Purpose to be around others on the same journey - but with no expectations
  • Pray with people if we feel called to do so
  • Love to eat with others - there is something magical about sharing a meal
  • Try to be honest and vulnerable in our relationships and conversations with others

Examples

Here are some examples of when we feel like we followed Jesus’s example of loving and relating to people.

I feel like I’m bragging as I type these - please know that isn’t the intent.

Church on Skype

We had a Skype call with a young family considering fulltime travel. The conversation touched on church life. Towards the end I felt called to end the conversation by praying over them. I asked if they minded. They didn’t and I stammered out an awkward prayer.

God’s Providence

Last year we purposed to camp alongside friends whom we feel do an awesome job of modeling Jesus in their everyday life. Our desire was to watch and learn from them.

God did an incredible job in setting up a classroom for us. We ended up camped by people that included a male couple, an otherwise homeless woman in her 40’s, and an actor from LA on a long solo journey.

There were kids running around. Teens off being teens. Parents walking together. Everyone sharing meals. We had after-dark poetry slams. We played card games. We had some of the deepest, rawest, and most authentic conversation about God and faith that we have ever been in.

Business Call

On a recent group business call there were some tender, teary, and transparent moments shared in regards to income and debt levels.

I felt called to pray for the group but I’m new to them and didn’t know where everyone was faith-wise. I got shy and bit my tongue.

I prayed for them after the call, but not speaking up while on the call still bothered me. I posted in the related Facebook group, told them the situation and learned that the prayer would have been welcomed.

I’m not “planning to pray” next time but know that if I again feel led to I can.

Travelling Neighborhood

Last year we had a period of time where several traveling families moved in and out of the same Florida state park.

There were flocks of girls swarming the campground. Outoor movies. Men leaning on trucks talking. Women off walking trails together. We shared meals and observed communion at one. We had group campfires. At times the conversation got very deep, personal, and authentic around our faith journeys.

All of this happened on the fly - there was no weekly schedule, no “church night” etc. If one family was out seeing the local attractions there was no guilt laid at their feet for “not being there”.

Seasonal Campsite

This past summer we rented a seasonal lot in a Michigan campground.

We had seasonal neighbors on one side - we spent time with them eating, watching movies, playing cards and fishing. Conversations didn’t get as deep as the others I’ve mentioned, but we tried to love on them and trust in God’s timing for everything else.

On our other side was a campsite that had different people in it each weekend. We met young families, people we knew from past churches, and other people that we never managed to connect with.

We just trusted Gods providence and figured if we were meant to connect with them we would have.

Financial Concerns

We overnighted at a park where another fulltime RV family lives. The conversation got around to work and income.

We were both seeing a decline in the businesses that had been sustaining us. I knew I was scared about continuing to meet our bills, and could sense they were too.

I offered to pray and they were open to it, so I prayed over our finances and for trust in God to meet our needs.

Taking Time

I recently got an email from a blog reader who was close by and wondered if I could meet for breakfast. I said “Sure - how about tomorrow?”

He expressed surprise - he said he had buddies from high school couldn’t find time within two months to grab a beer together, how could I be that available?

I explained that we saw our availability as part of our new faith reality. We’ve simply made it a priority to always say yes to proposed connections and to do them as soon as possible.

We met the following morning, I prayed over our breakfast, and we went on to have a great conversation about careers, kids, travel and our faith journey.

Current Location

We aren’t 100% confident in our faith walk yet. There are many times where it feels like we “should be doing more”. We still feel that way more on Sunday than other days.

It’s easy to do some web searches, find opinions by people who seem to know the Bible better saying we should still be “going to church”, and start to doubt our actions.

We naturally hunger for more of the authentic connections like the ones I listed above. It’s easy to turn that hunger into a plan or a program with the goal of achieving the same outcome.

Pressing On Regardless

But we know that’s the first turn back to the way we just came from. Back there, the activity might have been more regular and scheduled, but it was far less authentic.

We’re more interested in the road ahead.

Update

Looks like some other folks had church find them on the road too..

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23 Comments Our Faith Journey 4 - What Church Looks Like Now

  1. Picture of Nico VeenkampNico Veenkamp January 17, 2016

    I love how you guys go about this and share your journey with us. Open communication with others and just follow your heart. You never know where you’ll wind up.

    Take care, as always.

    Nico

  2. Picture of LouLou January 19, 2016

    Wow, awesome series of posts! You guys are so inspirational, especially for those of us who are not yet on the full-time journey.

    This has been one of the bigger discussions of our family as we plan to ditch soon. We seem to share your same viewpoint, though without the practical experience you have.

    One of my degrees is in Theology, which isn’t saying much, but I chose a similar topic for my thesis. I spent close to a year studying the topic of discipleship and how the established church doesn’t do a very good job of going about it adequately. So much of what you said in your posts resonated with what I believe and have discovered.

    Again, you guys rock!
    Lou

  3. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink January 19, 2016

    Thanks Lou - it’s always good to find others on the same journey.

  4. Picture of kevinkevin January 19, 2016

    Hi Mike,

    I think this is the BEST of the 4 posts - because it talks about the REAL struggle we Christians have - living our faith and being willing to pray for others.
    It’s awesome to see and read about others moving to do this. 
    Too many Christians think CHURCH is the definition of being a Christian, but while I think it’s extremely important to be studying under a good teacher, most ‘Christians’ count Sunday service as checking the box, or taking roll – “we did our christian thing.”

    But Christianity isn’t just about church, it’s about our growth in Christ. We each stand alone with Christ at the end. I don’t get to claim membership to some church as my salvation – only that I trusted Christ alone.
    I always cringe at the term “faith journey” because that is a term people use when talking about what they believe, meaning usually “what we decide works for us”.  But for Christians, IF you believe, then you are to grow in your walk – certainly your faith grows - He is the author and finisher of it (Heb 12:2).
    But your time is NOT spent evaluating your beliefs as much as it is supposed to be spent studying and living it.

    When I look around me and find people of strong faith, and lives that seem blessed, I find 3 things in common - usually actually 4.
    1 - they attend (and serve) a body of believers - because they are studying under a good teacher to grow deeper in their knowledge.
    2 - they have a consistent reading/studying time on their own.
    3 - they have STRONG prayer lives - and are willing to pray for others often.
    4 - they are often serving others just by their nature, and sometimes intentionally involved in some ministry.

    Most ‘Christians’ are maybe doing #1, but you’ll see the blessings come with #2 thru #4, and that is where MOST Christians miss.

    At any rate, I agree church on the road does seem like it will be awkward, but we won’t give it up simply because of that. It’s another opportunity for US to minister at church (meeting and praying for others), or just be blessed by being surrounded by others worshipping together and hearing other pastors teach the word. Our preference is to find a church that teaches thru the word, not one that just “has service.”  I’ve found this is one of the easiest things to find out about a church - look at their list of messages if they post them, or see if their statement says they teach thru the word. Most don’t.

    BUT, what I love about this post is that THIS is what we as Christians should be doing, and it’s called LIVING our faith. Yes, it’s awkward, scary, and often even potentially inviting ridicule or criticism, but it’s the #1 area I’ve seen consistently that separates the Christian in name, vs the Christian in LIFE.

    I once heard a story about an avid atheist stating something like: “if Christians REALLY believe what they say they believe, WHY are they not out there warning everyone and preaching the gospel?”

    Of course, fear, but if someone was really in a burning building, would we say “you know, they might not like me telling them their life is in danger?”  You know, I think we still might, but it’s absurd that we fear men and their thoughts more than we fear the giver of life and the one who can destroy not only the body, but also the soul in hell (matt 10:28). But it’s true with most of us, even those who are active in praying for others. There can still be a hesitancy. It’s hard to open up to the possibility of rejection.

    There is a song that says something like: “break my heart for what breaks yours”, meaning I want to feel what you feel about your children. I want to not pass by people ignoring their pain, their peril.  We all, as Christians should be praying more – for each other, and the lost. And we should know the word, so when others ask, we can tell them the truth about God.

    And I still feel we should gather when able to fellowship, worship and study together ;)  even if just a small group of us. In a church setting, it’s hard to have discussion, but in smaller groups, it’s much easier and can be a lot of fun.

    Super excited you put these posts out.  You challenged me to not let this newness and awkwardness of RV living to interfere with what I should be doing as a Christian and to be more vigilant and intentional in making connections ... and praying for others.

    Thank you!

    Kevin

  5. Picture of BobBob January 20, 2016

    Mike,

    Thank you for being open and honest concerning church and faith. Having grown up in church and being very active in various ministries of every church I’ve every been a part of since my college days some 40+ years ago, this is a very searching question my wife, (a born again believer of just eight years), and I have been prayerfully considering as we prepare to embark on our full time RV journeys. This has given me a small glimpse into how others handle the “Do I go to church” question.
    I look forward to following your blog.

  6. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink January 20, 2016

    Thanks Kevin and Bob - much appreciated.

  7. Picture of Sigfried TrentSigfried Trent January 20, 2016

    Nice series of articles. I’m not a religious person but I am always very interested in peoples religious experiences and the search for spiritual fulfillment.

    I think your reasoning is spot on and that Jesus’s teachings were not to obey a church or follow a set pattern of worship but to follow the spirit of kindness and generosity however, wherever, and whenever there is opportunity. And in this life, there is always ever present opportunity for that.

  8. Picture of Frederick PolgardyFrederick Polgardy January 21, 2016

    I really appreciate your honesty and transparency as you wrestle with this stuff. As an ex-believer, I struggled for years with what church was supposed to look like, and I think you’re asking the right questions and attempting to live authentically. This has plenty of value for those of us in the “spiritual but not religious” category, too. How do we find opportunities on the road to engage spirit, serve others, and commune with people who share our values of people and relationships over consumerism? Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts!

  9. Picture of DonDon January 21, 2016

    I loved this series. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your faith journey with us. We’re not full-time yet, but we’ve had similar experiences while traveling.

  10. Picture of Robert ColeRobert Cole January 21, 2016

    Church is a concern for our family when we go full time and has been when we have moved several times in recent years. We have found that God speak s to us through http://intouch.org, a ministry with Dr. Charles Stanley. This site is a great resource to listen to daily devotionals, daily radio programs, or watch a video church service from his home church, First Baptist of Atlanta. I hope you will hear God’s word through Dr. Stanley’s message as we do.  I leave you with this passage: James 1:22-25NIV
    22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

  11. Picture of MichaelMichael January 22, 2016

    Beautifully thought out and well written, Michael.  The notion of prayer, witnessing and the like may be perceived by others as unwarranted “salesmanship.” Even the new Pope opted to be known as Francis, focusing more on humble roots of poverty and humility rather than proselytizing and relying on dogma. 

    As the quip goes, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!”  And just like when we are giving a speech, it’s wise to be mindful that afterwards people will remember far less of what we said than how me make them FEEL.

    Or to quote Dale Carnegie,
    “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”  and…
    “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.” (i.e., show them brotherly love by relating to THEIR lives and agenda - not ours)

    Happy trails,  Michael

  12. Picture of Karen JohnsonKaren Johnson January 22, 2016

    As an ex-believer now,  the journey from a born-again Christian to where I am now started with such an intense nakedness of all my beliefs (40+yrs) at times it was extremely uncomfortable.  “The Misunderstood God” and The God Journey were helpful in us (dh & I) getting more comfortable with ‘being the church’, but at the time we hadn’t added in the fulltime-on-the-road aspect.  Good luck with working all these things out…its an interesting journey, to say the least.

  13. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink January 22, 2016

    Thanks Karen! Interesting to see Wayne Jacobeson as a reviewer on the Amazon page for The Misunderstood God.

  14. Picture of EE January 24, 2016

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Michael.  It illustrates the struggle I’ve had as well with organized religion and incorporating God into my life.  Thanks for setting a good example for the rest of us.

  15. Picture of Margie LundyMargie Lundy February 07, 2016

    So well put! And of course mirrors our experience perfectly. :)

  16. Picture of aNNaaNNa May 20, 2017

    Three things:

    1.  I have come to realize that - while this morning I said I would try to read thru your blog - that is not possible.  It’s not chronological, not formatted so that I can do that, and even looking at the map, there’s no direction to follow to ‘travel’ your journey with you. 

    2.  I’m *SO GLAD* that you asked the questions, sought the answers, and made the changes.  A lot of people can’t do that.  It’s hard, letting go of years and years of church ‘programming’.  I know - been right there with you.

    3.  I said in a previous comment that maybe you shouldn’t read my blog.  Now I’m thinking maybe you *REALLY* shouldn’t read my blog.  Or at least take anything you read very slowly.  Just… this is a lot.  And our paths, while similar, might be more varied than I thought.

  17. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink May 20, 2017

    Hey Anna -

    On #1 - if you click “Blog” in the main navigation and then use the links at the bottom of the page you can navigate the posts chronologically.

    But you’re right - the chronological order of our stuff has been less of a proirity in our design than location or topic, hence the Archives being organized that way.

    On #3 - no worries.

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