As a writer people often ask me, “What are you writing about?” It’s always a welcome question for me because it gives me an opportunity to try out my new ideas on people. Because, believe me, as a writer what sounds good to you in your writing room can sound really ridiculous when it’s tried out on real people.
So these days when people ask, “What are you writing about?” I say, “Well I am writing four books.” And then I say, “But the one I am really excited about of the four is called, “Advancing the Agoraphobic Church.” Without question, everyone says, “What?! What does that mean?”
Well, you’ve got to understand what the word agoraphobic means. Someone who is agoraphobic is afraid of crowds, or literally afraid of the marketplace. And I think that’s an apt description of what’s going on in the churches in the United States. It’s not so true in Africa, Asia, in the Far East, or in South America. But it is true in this country. People are becoming more and more afraid of living out in the marketplace.
We’re a part of what I call the halfway-generation church. We go halfway with what Jesus says. For example, Jesus said that we’re in the world, but not of the world. And what we do is take half of that. We decide not to be of the world. We decide to build churches with steeple, build private schools and institutions, home-school, do a thousand other things that create little walled-in gardens where Christians gather, separated from the rest of the world.
And trust me, nobody else really cares. They don’t care at all that we go to church on Sunday; that we gather and build these little walled gardens and water them, and talk to each other. They don’t care that we have Christian music, Christian books, Christian associations, men’s groups, or women’s Bible studies as long as we have our holy little huddles and we don’t bother anyone else.
We are developing an agoraphobic church. Yes, they have great communication, great worship music, CD’s and bands. But to be really honest with you, what we have to say really isn’t anything different than what everyone has already heard. Religion doesn’t sell except in the walled-in garden around other people just like you.
But my friends, this is the wall-less, wireless, worn-out world. It is new. It is different. And for those who are into walled-in gardens, it is threatening. But for those who see the death of distance as a great thing for the Good News, as a powerful thing for those who are renegades for God, who believe we should live free, have fun, and that in itself will be the change the world is seeking.
It’s a new day, a good day. Which are you, a renegade for God, or someone who inhabits the safe little space of a walled-in garden?