For twenty-some years, I have been hounded by the vision of a different (original) way of doing church. I was inspired by my personal experiences with small faith communities, contemplative prayer and authentic spiritual formation (not to be confused with religious formation). All of these experiences proved to me that for many people, (42.7 million non-practicing Catholics for example) “pay, pray and obey” is simply not enough. Many people are not content to simply show up on Sunday morning so as to fulfill their Sunday obligation and receive their “get out of hell free card.” In short, people are simply too smart to buy into this reward/punishment model of church, especially when what they often see are grotesque examples of hypocrisy in those bludgeoning them with threats of eternal damnation – most especially when these threats of hell are coming out of the same mouth that just preached on the unconditional love of God.
Instead, what I have envisioned and held in my heart for the past twenty years is something more akin to what Jesus seemed to have done.
First – He prayed. He meditated. He spent time in contemplation with that which he called Abwoon (sometimes translated as Father but is really beyond gender or image). HERE was his source of peace, clarity, guidance, healing, comfort, transformation and love.
Second – He uncompromisingly obeyed the guidance he discovered in his time in contemplation, even when it meant disobeying the perceived authorities (religious and civil) of his time and/or going against societal norms.
Third – He shared with others what he discovered in his time of contemplation and prayer. Mostly what he shared was LOVE. In his time with Abwoon, Jesus discovered an expansive, unconditional, uplifting, empowering Source of love – a love that conquered fear, that healed wounds, that pierced the veil of judgment and false perceptions.
Fourth– He taught others to do what he learned to do and in the learning, they too found healing, transformation, contentment, joy, peace and a sense of fulfillment.
This is what Jesus did…..PERIOD. He never formed a church. He did not set out to create a new religion. He established no doctrine. And the rituals he enacted were all traditional aspects of his Jewish faith. One might say that what truly set Jesus apart was that he lived his Jewish faith to the fullest extent possible based on what he saw as the pillars of his faith – the simple commandments to love God and love neighbor – and in doing so….he changed the world.
I must admit that my vision of something beyond church is for nothing less than this – to do what Jesus did and in doing so, to help change the world.
To learn more about upcoming “beyond church” offerings at Authentic Freedom Academy click on the links below: