If you've spent much time wandering around in the blogging world, you've seen the series I'm about to mention. TPFKA The People Formerly Known As --- the blanks have been filled in with TC The Congregation, TP: The Pastor, TPW: The Pastors Wife, and A Normal Christian.
I liked the posts. I really did. They spoke a ton of truth, hard hitting truth that needled in on the specific problems that each group felt. I grew up in a pastors home and now sit as just part of a congregation and so I have a taste of both sides of the issue.
The problem I found with these posts was that they seemed to end there. They handed me a great big wall of problems and left me with them. There was no resolution, and they didn't leave me with a sense of purpose or peace. Mostly, they left me just a little sad. One, specifically the one concerning the pastors wife, left me convicted because I saw myself in it. But after apologizing to my friend -the PW I knew I could do no more than that (except trying harder) and again I was just left feeling a little dissatisfied (with the posts, not my friend).
Then the post came along that relieved my dissatisfaction. It encouraged me and gave me hope that all those Christians that I would like to meet haven't abandoned me in churches so that they could have their get together in a coffee house. There's still some people, passionately seeking Christ, and they're still going to church.
I'm going to give you a clip from each of the other posts, but it's the post at the end that's the best.
TPFKATC - The People Formerly Known As The Congregation.
by Bill Kinnon
Let me introduce you to The People formerly known as The Congregation. There are millions of us.
We are people - flesh and blood - image bearers of the Creator - eikons, if you will. We are not numbers.
We are the eikons who once sat in the uncomfortable pews or plush theatre seating of your preaching venues. We sat passively while you proof-texted your way through 3, 4, 5 or no point sermons - attempting to tell us how you and your reading of The Bible had a plan for our lives. Perhaps God does have a plan for us - it just doesn't seem to jive with yours.
We are The People formerly known as The Congregation. We have not stopped loving the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nor do we avoid "the assembling of the saints." We just don't assemble under your supposed leadership. We meet in coffee shops, around dinner tables, in the parks and on the streets. We connect virtually across space and time - engaged in generative conversations - teaching and being taught.
TPFKATP - The People Formerly Known As The Pastor
by John Frye
There are thousands of us. You probably know many of us now as insurance sales agents, real estate agents, or doing anything besides "church." We started with idealism about being voices for the kingdom of God and soon realized we became mutated forms of USAmerican business leaders.
The People Formerly Known As The Pastor discovered somewhere in "doing church" that they were being paid as surrogates for the congregation's spirituality. You know, the old saw, "Pastors are paid to be good; the people are good for nothing."
The People Formerly Known As The Pastor officiated at very high-priced weddings and worried how we would get our own kids married. Spring Break meant Disney-World for you and your kids and a trip to see relatives for us. We tried to remember the thing about "treasures laid up in heaven" while realizing that tithing was the rich person's easy way out.
TWFKATPW - The Women Formerly Known As The Pastors Wife
by Lyn Hallewell
We are the women who have been known as the pastors wife. There are thousands of us all over the world. This was not a role we sought to have in life, we simply fell in love with a man who was called into ministry. Initially we were excited with our new “role”, and, along with our husband, we could see all of the potential there was in the Kingdom of God.
We were expected to look and act in a certain manner, and always had to put on a smile. None of you were really concerned if we were struggling, had questions about church or life in general. You told us countless times, through your actions and words, that we were not there to receive, but to serve. After all we were seen as a Godly lady, and you expected no less.
What had started as a joy to be in ministry, was now turning into a misery. The demands on our husbands grew, which caused friction at home, as we wanted to try and have some quality family time together. For years we have supported and encouraged our husbands. We have cried so many tears - more tears than you will ever realize.
TGFKAANC - The Girl Formerly Known As A Normal Christian.
by Heidi Daniels
I am the girl formerly known as a normal Christian. I read my Bible daily and highlighted, underlined, and wrote notes in the margin. I led my first Bible study when I was 16. I am the girl who attended not one church during my high school years, but two. I was the faithful church attendee every Sunday, and then a faithful youth group member at a different church - always showing up early to Bible studies and Sunday evening events.
I might not agree with you about how best to do that, but I haven't forsaken fellowship. I meet with the body of Christ in my home and the homes of others, in coffee shops, across fried rice at Thai restaurants, participating in redemptive conversations and living, loving, crying, and praying together. This, I believe, is Church - and it is something I will love and serve until my dying day.
And finally, a post by Dan MacDonald pastor at Grace Toronto Church (who doesn't have a blog for me to link to).
I doubt you'll ever see my little blog over here Pastor MacDonald, but thanks so much for your words.
TPFKATPFKATC - The People Formerly Known As The People Formerly Known As The Congregation.
I raise a glass to the People Formerly Known as the People Formerly Known as the Congregation, who, upon hearing that their disaffection had created a tsunami-like publicity wave that was about to become a Zondervan marketing campaign and then a new para-church ministry (40 Days of Anti- Purpose?), quietly realized that it was no use. Even their defiance had become hip. Soon CNN would be calling, and Larry King would be asking them for an interview. Sigh.
And so, with heavy hearts, they looked around for the most authentic expression of Christianity they could find. It wasn't in the Christian bookstores. It wasn't in the radio programs. It wasn't even in the TV shows; Lord, no. Oprah didn't quite make it. Benny and Jimmy and the TBN gang had too much hair spray and too many white suits and ever-white teeth. And it was no longer in the blog weave known as TPFKATWhatever, which was now hopelessly popular, cool, hip, and with it.
So they dragged themselves down to the local church. Not the magnet Uber-church that took up 15 acres of land, but the local church with the faded sign and the musty carpet. And there, they found something bizarre.
Second-rate music, draggy announcements, bad children's stories, dated PowerPoint templates, and something else.... real parents who were teaching children about Jesus with joy in their hearts. Ushers who loved to serve. Snacks teams that laughed as they missed the last part of the service just to feed a hundred people. Guitarists in tears over a cheesy illustration by the young pastoral intern, who was so nervous he had forgotten to button his shirt properly and was speaking for 58 minutes because by gosh, since he only got to preach twice a year, he was going to tell them everything he had learned in the past 6 months. And patient singles, couples and parents nodding dutifully to him, knowing he was nervous and helping him feel loved and prophetic and useful. and finding that in those 58 minutes were some very helpful things for them, because a Voice was using this intern in his inadequacy.
And that Voice, the Voice of the Shepherd, touched the PFKATPFKATC. And they remembered why it took them so long to become the PFKATC. Because despite the second-rate production values, the Spirit was here. He promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in His name. Excellent it wasn't- Cheesy it was. Authentic? Go ask the snacks coordinator if her joy is authentic, and she'll think you're from another planet. You can't DREAM UP this kind of second-rate cheese combined with this much first-rate joy in our culture any more; it has to be authentic.
So they- the PFTATC, that is, decided to be radical and do a crazy thing. They called up the People Presently Known as Pastors, and found a bunch of people equally frustrated, tired, restless, and hopeful. And they talked. And the PFKATCongregation realized the PPKATPastors hardly read blogs, because they are so busy dealing with the complaints and needs of the People Still in Their Congregation. The pastors were stunned that these people cared so much; they had assumed the leaving was because the PFKATC cared too little.
And lo and behold, they each found out something wondrous and true, and that is this: that the people presently known as pastors mostly got into the pastorate for people like the PFKATC, because you care so much about the kingdom. And so do we.
And so I raise a glass, as a Person Still Willing To Call Myself a Pastor, to You, the People About to Be Known Again As The Congregation. I know church isn't what it should be. That's my fault- and yours. I stamped it with my pathologies, and so did you. Don't try to bail on your responsibility just because I got paid to do this full time. Guess who paid me? This sucker is OURS, first to last. It's wounded, and weak, and corrupted, and full of hypocrisy- I agree.
But the funny thing is... it IS the body of Christ. A messed up, messy, ego-saturated, hypocritical institution on earth. With idiots like you and me running it, what did you expect? Oh yeah, and one more thing - it is also His Bride. The glorious, triumphant, sinful yet forgiven, cleansed, spotless Bride against whom the Gates of Hell shall not prevail.
If you turn your back on His Bride, you turn your back on Him. And since you are His, you won't do that. You will come back and help make the Bride beautiful again. Because you care. There is enough piss and vinegar and sadness and passion and real, Spirit-groaning hope in these blog threads to start a new Reformation. It's high time we started. Who's got the nails for the Door? I'll bring the hammer. And drink a glass to you all.