During the past six to eight months I’ve had some intriguing conversations with some very smart people about Jesus and church and religion: my friend Jason McCarty, an eastern religion-leaning therapist in British Columbia; Gwyn McVay, a buddhist poet here in Lancaster, PA; Ryan Dagen, the youth pastor at Gap Community Church. My dad, a pastor. And others.
What resonated with me the most is that, when I give people space and time to present their thoughts and ideas, I began to realize that MOST people are on a genuine search for Truth. We all have our prejudices and stereotypes and experiences, but most of these fade pretty quickly when we start conversing with someone who is open to hearing what we think about the world, someone who doesn’t condemn us or criticize us for where we are at but simply asks us probing questions.
Huh, that’s funny. That’s what Jesus did.
* * * * *
I started to wonder – what if there was a place that people could go to talk about God that was like church but without the pretense, the pressure to conform, didn’t have the baseball bat waiting to whack you back into line as soon as you suggested something different or non-traditional or perhaps nonsensical? Some recent studies suggest that less than 17% of Americans attend church on a regular basis – what if it’s because the church is more about indoctrinating people with a set of beliefs than giving people the time and space they need to genuinely explore the issues they think are pretty important?
Is there space for an environment like this, where folks from all kinds of different backgrounds can share their stories and ask tough questions out loud and disagree nicely with one another, without blood pressures rising?
We’re going to give it a try.
* * * * *
Beginning January 9th, for 8 consecutive Sundays in January and February, Ryan Dagen and I are experimenting: it’s called 8 Weeks in the Red. We’re going to explore what Jesus had to say about 8 big topics. Some of the titles to the weeks are “Theological Humility,” “Approaching Jesus During a Dark Night,” “A Changing God – The Old and New Testament,” “Homosexuality,” “Acceptance (Not Tolerance),” and “The Big Question: What Do You Seek?”
We think our generation is more attracted to authentic community and the freedom to ask questions than a once-a-week one-hour Sunday morning service. We think that you can take what Jesus had to say about the world and look at it through a postmodern lense without minimizing its affect or watering down its truth. We think that opening the Sunday morning experience at 10am and going until 2pm (including a coffee hour in the beginning and a potluck lunch) is more appealing than going to a place where you try to slip in and out as quickly as possible, without being noticed.
* * * * *
We might be totally wrong. Maybe this isn’t what people are looking for at all. We’ll let you know how it goes.
* * * * *
If this sounds intriguing, you can follow us at The Red on Facebook, or on 8weeksintheRed on Twitter. We’re going to try to keep those pages updated in real time during our meetings with questions and comments that come out, and even if you can’t make it to the actual meeting you can follow along or post questions on the page and we’ll try to address them. There’s also talk of turning the discussion times into a podcast and creating a web site, but we’ll see how things go.