I watched the video podcast from Pastor to Pastor with Oden Fong from a HisChannel broadcast. He and another pastor (whose name escapes me at the moment) were talking about the early days of CC and what they hope to see in the future. That video, along with the Define Church thread over on SMP, brought this to mind. (Is it me, or does the title of this posting sound like a Dr. Seuss poem book?)
Oden said something I had hoped desperately he would say. This won’t be a direct quote but it should convey the thought he put forth. He said that guys who go out and try to do what Chuck did will fail. It isn’t simply a matter of copying what was done back in the day because it wasn’t so much about the “what” as it was about the “Who” and the “why.” The “Who” was/is the Triune Godhead. It was the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. That is what drove Chuck, drove CC. That is what drove the “why” behind what was done and what was not done.
In many corners, including the one I stepped into, the model, the method of style of worship and some form of verse by verse teaching became a liturgy, a tradition. Again, I’m not talking about or criticizing the what. I’m concerned about what happened to the Who and why that was behind the what. The what is almost irrelevant. Almost.
I recently changed the name of our church from “Calvary Chapel Forest Grove” to “The Exchange Church.” The reason I did this is because I believed that our fellowship needed a new identity in our community. I believed this for a variety of reasons. One was the obvious connection between the previous pastor and our church. We were experiencing “Oh that church” syndrome. Another was that most people don’t know what CC is. That works for you and against you. It works for you in that if someone has never heard of CC but they are Christians, it sounds kinda harmless. It works against you in that if someone has never heard of it but they aren’t a Christian, (a) it sounds pretty “churchy” and (2) it must be kinda weird if they have never heard of it. It also works against you if the person has heard of it and heard about all the baggage. Even if they have never experienced any of the baggage, the fact that the baggage exists is enough to warn them off. Yet another reason is that I believed we needed a clean start for ourselves and as much of a clean slate with the community as possible.
The great thing about CC back in the day was that the Who and the why were more important than the what. When the what becomes the focus, you lose the Who and the why. Kind of like when you take the blood away from Jesus, you have a bloodless Jesus. Does a name change such as this mean I am going emergent church? Of course not. This would be an example of the what becoming more important than the Who or the why. It’s that kind of thinking that I’m trying to eliminate in myself as well as our fellowship.
As a pastor, regardless of denomination or affiliation or association, the Who and the why need to be paramount. The what needs to be a natural, organic outgrowth. When we get focused on the what, when we lose the Who and the why, traditionalism creeps in and begins to sterilize. Please, God, help us to not lose sight of the Who and the why.