I’ll admit it. When earnest, thoughtful, Christ-seeking people tell me they no longer go to church, I have two reactions in the following order: a quick spat of envy, then a chest full of heartsick. How will we find one another in a world of one-size-fits-none religion?
The answer, says community cultivator Kelly Bean, is as much a mental shift as it is a linguistic one. The author of the new book How to be a Christian Without Going to Church (July 2014, Baker Books) doesn’t advocate leaving Christian community altogether. Instead, she encourages believers to make the switch from conceiving church as something we go to – a building, a sermon, a worship service – to something we practice being by modelling Jesus who spoke of the ekklesia as a people set apart (literally “the called out ones”) to gather, heal, and create.
Still, do we have to choose between going and being? I asked her when we chatted over Skype. What if my idea of “being the church” is really just code for being more intentional with friends? What is the role of the stranger in communities not visible on the streets (or searchable on the internet)? And am I the only one that finds the idea of DIY church a little overwhelming?
Despite its provocative title, her book is not a how-to at all but a resource-rich guide to alternative faith communities meant to spark the imagination. For those who do feel the call to become “non-goers,” Bean counsels, “Go gently; go towards something and not away from something.”
To read more about Bean and the community in which she moves, click here to find bonus chapters to the book.