I have many conversations with people who find it difficult to believe or people who barely believe or people who want to believe but can’t or people who are embarrassed to believe or people who look down in condescension at those who believe or people who are just bewildered that anyone could believe in something like God or resurrection or hope or any kind of future that is radically dissimilar to the present. This is the shape of our life and imagination in the post-Christian West.
When I, along with a friend and colleague, started planting a new church in Chicago about five years ago, we had lots of ideas about how to do church, but one thing was certain: we wanted to do church differently. Lots of church planters have the same mission.
We told other existing churches that we weren’t in competition with them—we wanted to attract people who, for whatever reason, would never set foot in a narthex. In other words, we didn’t want our church to be too. . . . churchy.
I looked at the front of my house and saw some peeling paint. I looked again and saw more peeling paint. This did not make me happy. Just four years ago I painted the house. I know that proper preparation is critical for painting success. I spent days, no, more like weeks, on prep. I power washed. I hand scraped the entire house. Up and down the ladder. I scraped most of the south side of the house down to bare wood. Then I bought good paint, expensive paint. Paint that was supposed to last 25 years. I didn’t really expect 25 years but I was expecting more than four.
So last week I washed the front of my house and started removing the peeling paint.
Most of us who work in a church can see parallels between bookstores and church. We had small, physical spaces in which we met and built community. We watched as big-box churches moved in, allowing for many more options, but individuals became much more anonymous in the process. Now, we know there are a growing number of people who are leaving church, but the search for God is still happening digitally.