“Where are you going to church now?” Linda (pseudonym) chirped as we queued up at the buffet table.  We’re former members of the “brick and mortar” (institutional) church Linda still attends.  Now we were lining up for spinach salad, pasta, meatballs and spumoni at a banquet for another ministry.

I knew what Linda meant.  I also knew she wouldn’t understand my response.

Her version of “church” is what ours was before we yielded to numerous Holy Spirit “nudges” to exit the IC and form The Sheepfold.  I also knew that trying to adequately explain the biblical, historical and theological moorings of “simple” or “organic” church while browsing the buffet table was as likely as a snowball skating through a blazing brick kiln intact.  So I thanked Linda for her inquiry, smiled and said, “The Sheepfold.”

“The Sheepfold?” Linda replied.  “Never heard of it.  What’s that?”

“It’s a simple church based on the New Testament model of Acts 2:42-47.”  Linda looked at me like I was speaking Mandarin Chinese.

“Who’s your pastor?” was followed by, “Are people getting saved?  Are you missions-minded?”

I wanted to ask Linda the same questions, plus a few more, such as: When’s the last time anyone got saved at “First Baptist” (pseudonym)? What do you mean by “missions-minded”? I was well aware that Linda’s version of “missions-minded” means taking up collections to finance someone else’s work in a foreign country rather than rubbing shoulders with others and influencing them for Christ in the day-to-day, everyday world of wherever God has placed us.  I also wanted to ask:

  • How does First Baptist “reach out” to anyone, anywhere, when the focus is on bringing people in, under its roof?
  • Why is “ministry” defined by what goes on within an institutional context?
  • Is church some place you go, or who you are?
  • How many people at “First Baptist” are actively engaged in ministry on a regular basis vs. the number of people who passively watch paid staff conduct a “religious show” each week and then leave?
  • Why did First Baptist take on over a million dollars in debt to finance a new building, and couldn’t that money have been better spent to meet tangible needs within the community a la “feet on the ground” ministry rather than a mortgage, insurance and overhead?
  • How many home Bible studies are up and running at First Baptist, and do they have to have pastoral or Board approval to function?
  • Is each member allowed free and full exercise of his/her spiritual gifts?
  • When was the last time “First Baptist” reproduced itself?
  • Is “church” about pulpit preaching and ministry by people on payroll, or about Holy-Spirit equipped wooing, doing, and being?

“Linda” mentioned a grandson who “doesn’t go anywhere” and has asked, “How come First Baptist spent all that money to put up a new building when there are people on the same block who can’t afford to feed their own families”?  Linda was clearly annoyed with what I thought was a valid question.  I also wanted to ask why she thinks “church” is a “come in” rather than a “go out” proposition, if “church” is something she attends once a week, or who she is all day, every day, and what is the scriptural basis for the IC’s clergy/laity dichotomy?

I had lots of questions for Linda.  But I didn’t ask them.  She wasn’t in a place to hear them.  So I gave her my card and invited her to contact me if she’d like to discuss the topic further.  Then I smiled and said, “Please pass the Ranch dressing.”

What will the next banquet bring?