Change is in the Air

Call it a softer, gentler Stupid Church People…

HA…no, not really. But maybe you have noticed a change in my attitude and approach over the past few weeks. Josh and I have talked at lengths about it and I am not sure what has led me to some of my more recent opinions, except to say that most likely it is a culmination of many different things… or it could be I am just getting old.

I started SCP with the thought in mind of creating my own spin on Mike Yaconelli’s “Wittenburg Door” magazine. I call it Mike’s because with him as their editor, that is truly when the magazine was at its finest. Their motto was “Nailing it to the Church”, and boy did they ever! They called people out, they pointed out the idiocy of much of the church in a sardonic and witty fashion. Big churches, small churches, churches of all denominations…. famous people, infamous people, no-name people… if you were a part of the church you were potentially a target for their pen. (The Door still exists and it’s still a fine magazine, I just miss the old one and haven’t really given the new one a chance… how “stupid” of me).

And so Josh and I embarked on this endeavor called Stupid Church People. He has his blog and I have mine and occasionally we do a podcast. I often wonder as I continue down the path of my journey whether or not we are doing the right thing. You don’t know the amount of positive feedback we get from people. It is very encouraging to hear that something we’ve written or said has caused someone to see things a bit differently than before.

Yet we also get emails that ask us why we don’t act more like “real” Christians (or wonder if we even are.) There are also my own doubts and questions lingering in the back of my mind. When you have a website with a name like ours it could be construed that we don’t care about “church” or “people”. That’s just not true. Often I ask myself questions like: Are we too mean to people? Should we be more positive and encouraging? Is what we are doing right? Is this site really adding to the Kingdom of God or is it just tearing it down?

To help me answer that question, I went to my inspiration and here’s what I read in a 2005 issue of “The Door” magazine as they pondered these same questions:

So, when it comes to making a change in the Status Quo, about all that’s left to us is satire and humor. It’s a cheap but dangerous weapon… So, satire it is. This is the hand that’s been dealt us, so we’re going to continue to play it. You’ve heard us say it before: Satire is lining up 100 sacred cows and shooting them all with a machine gun. Whichever one yelps the loudest, you shoot 10 more times.

Still… Are we doing the right thing?

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, from A Deadly Mix)

Wow. If we’re true to our calling, then we have to be the thorn in the side of those in power, regardless of the cost.

Hey, that gives me an idea for our own SCP tagline: “Being Pricks to the Church since 2005”. Could be something worth developing don’t you think?

Josh and I are really nobodies. We don’t have a budget, we don’t ask for money and we don’t want to be famous. We are small potatoes in this economy of change-seekers for the church and for believers disillusioned by her. We are the underdogs against the superheroes of the Evangelical machine. But we believe that the “status quo” of the current Evangelical Church in most of its forms (emergent included) is irrelevant, ineffective and impotent. There needs to be more voices who speak out and draw attention to this and there are many avenues to do so. SCP, with it’s attempts at humor, brutal honesty and through the sharing of our personal stories and opinions is just our weapon of choice.

Regardless of what some may think, I am sincere in my quest for change – change within me, within the church system, within the lives of those trapped in a religious system of conformity and not freedom. I do care what others think and feel and have found myself feeling bad and recently trying to build bridges to those that have been the targets of our past shenanigans. It is truly not my nature to be disruptive or to intentionally hurt people.

More importantly, what I wanted this site to become (and in fact, what it has become) is a place where others who are disappointed, disillusioned or disenfranchised with the church can be heard and recognized. SCP is a place where people can know that they aren’t alone and can find encouragement on this leg of their journey.

There isn’t much I know for certain except for one thing: I am uniquely qualified and positioned at this time in my life to do what I am doing here and to call churches and church people out when I think they are being… well…. you know… stupid. I am willing and able to be a source of encouragement for anyone struggling with their feelings or frustrations regarding the church. I desire to be both: A thorn and a refuge.

So even though I may have softened and I feel the need to be a bit more balanced from our initial approach at times, please know that here and now, I resolve to seek to line up as many cows as possible to shoot. In the process, if I shoot one of your cows (or even you in a case of “friendly fire”) and you yelp, I want to thank you in advance for identifying yourself for what you truly are… a Stupid Church Person!

Welcome to the family.

“The Offer” – Update

I thought I should give you an update regarding “The Offer” which was referenced in a previous post. With all the speculation surrounding the offer I received and the proposed theories of a possible “agendas” I thought I should fill you in on the latest.

Actually, there’s not much to say in the way of details. The proposed invite isn’t just a one-on-one dinner, and of course I didn’t make that clear in the original post. The family has a low-key get together each week with neighbors and friends just to hang out and watch “Survivor” (a show I no longer watch). So I received an email to the next get-together and I haven’t been able to go yet to either one because of schedule conflicts, but plan on making one soon (along with my oldest who loves the show)… after all they were nice enough to invite me, it can’t hurt to get to know my neighbors, and there is gonna be free food.

So I disagree with all of you that are claiming some sort of “subversive agenda”. Of course, I do believe there was an agenda, but from my vantage point and intuition it was only positive. I truly sensed that there was genuine care and concern and they were just being friendly to invite me along to one of the weekly things they do at their house. Nothing more, nothing less.

The actual point of my previous post was not about what might or might not happen as a result of this invitation. It was more about the invitation itself. And I do feel that such simple invitations are revolutionary.

These type of actions are revolutionary, especially coming from paid pastors and “professional Christians”, because it allows those that they are trying to develop relationships with to know that they have genuine interest in them as people, not just as a butt in the pew (or folding chair) on Sundays. Traditionally, church people still tend to think of “outreach” as a way to get people to the church facilities or functions. Even the most progressive churches (read “emergent”) view it this way. But I think it’s revolutionary to stop asking people to come to church, to stop doing “church-wide” programs or advertising to promote attendance or “church growth”. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

Last week I was dropping my kids off at their first day of school and crossed paths with a pastor friend of mine and his wife that I have known for several years. In the course of conversation I shared with them what had been going on in my personal life over the past year.

Now without getting into details about my personal life (which really doesn’t matter for the most part), the point of this story isn’t my story at all – it’s the pastor and his wife who listened to me share it.

At first I was very reluctant to tell them much at all. I made the usual small talk, we talked about the kids, youth sports, jobs… yet when they asked me certain questions, I felt inclined to clue them in on what had been happening in my personal life. In those situations, I am never sure how much to share, but nonetheless I gave them the short version of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. No vague generalities of pretending everything is fine and dandy, but I told them exactly what was going on, as tactfully and gracefully as I could muster.

I was touched by their response. No solutions offered, no advice, no “pastoral” attitude, no trite sayings, no prayer…. they just listened. After I was done sharing I thanked them for listening to me “spill my guts” and appreciated them taking the time out of their day… and then the three of us started walking home.

As we reached my house and it was time to say goodbye the most amazing thing happened. The pastor and his wife gave me an invitation that I couldn’t refuse.

No… they didn’t invite me to come to their church.

No… they didn’t invite me to join them for a small group meeting.

No… they didn’t invite me to join hands with them and pray for my life.

No… they didn’t do anything vaguely resembling what a “good” pastor might do.

No… what they did was extraordinarily human-like.

They invited me (and my kids) to their home to hang out and watch TV with their family.

And guess what? I said I would… and then we shook hands and hugged goodbye.

Simple. Easy. Effective. Relevant.

Revolutionary.

SCP Fantasy Football

Ok everyone… I know it’s late to offer this but I thought I would give it a go. Anyone else out there into Fantasy Football?? Well I have been playing for about five years now and I always have fun. It’s a good mix of competition, camaraderie, and old-fashioned smack-talking.

It’s especially fun to play with knowledgeable players, the kind that take the league seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously. I have been in good leagues and bad leagues. So, of course, what I am hoping to form here is a good league. It’ll give those of us that play a chance to regularly interact and get to know one another in a different venue.

So here’s what we are going to do… if you are interested in playing in a competitive but fun fantasy football league, email me at steve@stupidchurchpeople.com immediately and let me know. Initially I am looking to try and get a total of 12 team owners together who will commit to playing this season.

So what’s the cost? There will be an entry fee of $60 to play but listen to this… the League Champion will receive $200 in prize money, and more importantly, the Stupid Church People Fantasy Football League Championship Trophy. In addition, there will be plenty of other prize money given out for the runner-up team, playoff teams, and weekly prizes as well.

So email me now because we need to get going today. Our draft will need to happen very soon and will most likely be handled live (it’s more fun that way) via an online interface and Gizmo (if we can make it all work out). I will take everyone on a first-come basis and then we will go from there.

Comments are turned off for this post because I need you to email me if you want to play. If you email me you must be serious about playing, about paying the $60 entry fee, and commit to finishing the season and giving it your best even if your team struggles at times (nothing is worse than an owner that quits or dumps his team after losing a few games).

Email me at steve@stupidchurchpeople.com NOW to get signed up!