I am currently on holiday in Canterbury NZ. We are in the foothills of the Southern Alps, quite a long way from anywhere. I cannot get the internet, there is no cell phone coverage and the nearest shop is nearly an hour’s drive away, along a dusty, windy gravel road. I love internet access and being able to send texts if I want to and “people watching” so I have been feeling the distance and isolation, though enjoying the freedom to do simply nothing. The scenery, the vastness and quietness is astounding. I think two vehicles have passed by today. There is a braided river, (The Rangitata) mountains in the background and massive shingle covered hills all around.
Today we woke up (eventually) to a strong North West wind, so apart from a little excursion in the car we have stayed indoors, and both of us have had lazy holiday afternoon “nana naps”. I have read a book today, which is quite good because I am a relatively slow reader. I have felt isolated often because of how I think about Church, Jesus and faith. I sometimes think, “Do I belong in Christian Ministry?” “Am I still even a Christian?” “Why do I have so many questions and see so many distortions, yet others seem blissfully unaware?” I bought this book the other day, it is by Philip Gulley and is entitled “If the Church were Christian” with the subtitle of “Rediscovering the Values of Jesus”. It is funny that while I am physically so isolated, and I often feel alone in the Church and in Christian ministry, today I felt “linked”. Philip Gulley asks the same sort of questions as I do! I am NOT alone! Here are the chapter headings…
If the Church were Christian...
1. Jesus would be a model for living rather than an object of worship
2. Affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.
3. Reconciliation would be valued over judgement.
4. Gracious behaviour would be more important than right belief.
5. Inviting questions would be more important than providing answers.
6. Encouraging personal exploration would be more important than communal uniformity.
7. Meeting needs would be more important than maintaining institutions.
8. Peace would be more important than power.
9. It would care more about love and less about sex.
10. This life would be more important than the afterlife.
In his book he essentially picks up the spirit of Jesus and then puts his ways alongside the priorities and practices of the Church and finds distortion. He rightly doubts that Jesus ever wanted to found another religion. I found in his writing a sense that at least one other Christian pastor is asking the sorts of questions I am troubled with. He simply rang bells for me. Of course I have not done so yet, but apparently you can check him out on www.PhilipGulley.org