Tag Archives: HOW WE DO CHURCH

The Vegetable Garden Church (A Yelp Post)


“I grew up in a Candy Store Church where we consumed spiritual candy to obesity and competed with other churches of similar ilk. For sure, there were many things at my CSC that commended itself, but I found that we were only growing in girth and not so much in God. My fondness for sweets notwithstanding, there’s only so much of it that a body can take.

Yelp stars

Then I found the Vegetable Garden Church. While I intend no malice toward any church in particular, I would like to rate my experience with this new church in contrast to my former.

It seems like a healthier way of doing church…

I think VGC has a greater chance of producing a healthier sort of Christian disciple. You tend to leave from their gatherings healthier than when you came in. In CSC, you may mistake being “full” for being nourished. At VGC, your pangs of hunger are healthily satisfied rather than just being silenced until the Sunday sugar high turns to a Monday low. Continue reading


The candy store church

We pour into our churches on Sundays, lock the doors, and sell candy to one another. The sugar high exhilarates but by the parking lot the high subsides to a low and the energy turns to lethargy. What’s worse is that our neighbors watch us come out looking more infirm than when we went in. And we wonder why they want nothing to do with us or our religion.candy store

That first kind of candy store church doesn’t have customers per se. They don’t care to share, but keep the sweet pretty much in-house. There are some candy store churches that will share their candy with the community, but the only way they know how to do it is to expect people to come to their store location during business hours. They make people wait till the precise Sunday morning moment when they crack the door open as they slip in. Visitors are welcome, but the window of time is brief. But if they’re lucky enough to get in, the best they can expect is to join the weekly in-house candy sale. Continue reading

Something Broken in the Bride

A pastor friend of mine told me recently that a quarter of the congregation he serves left for more convenient environs when their services had to move to a different rented facility and change the time of their gatherings to the afternoon. I thought, “Is that all their church meant to them, a comfortable place to meet at a convenient time?” Whatever happened to family, loyalty, community – to say nothing of discipleship and disciple-making? There’s something broken in the Bride.

In my opinion, how we view the role of the Church and what we expect of our leaders in general has contributed to her brokenness. Eugene Petersen, who pastored for many years and wrote the paraphrase of the Bible called, The Message said, “Some people come to church looking for a way to make life better, to feel good about themselves, to see things in a better light. They arrange a ritual and hire a preacher to make that happen for them.” The Church was never supposed to be an event, a place, or an organization. It’s a family on a mission together. We gather in order to be equipped and mobilized in order to scatter into the world to make a difference. Continue reading

Outer Circle Churches (Part 7 of 6ish)

[As you can see, this is a multi-post theme and you might find it helpful to begin at the beginning.]

Those of you who have more brain cells than me might notice a discrepancy in the arithmetic above, yet I’ve got that covered in the “ish” part of the “6”. I always have more to say than I originally plan, and have therefore become quite appreciative of the “ish”

An Outer Circle Church targets the poor, and if the rich come, they teach them to serve the poor.

Someone said, “There is hope for the rich if they are willing to repent and live in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, to be converted to God and to each other… Jesus didn’t neglect the rich, he evangelized them to love and give to the poor.”

New churches often target wealthier communities thinking that when they have a critical mass of bodies and bucks they’ll form a committee or a program to reach out to the poor. But it’s a curious reality that wealthy people and large congregations give proportionately less to the poor than the churches more meager in numbers and income. Wealthy churches tend to spend a higher percentage of their income internally – on staff, buildings, advertising, programs and events. They’re busy maintaining the machine that covertly hijacked them like Hal in the movie, 2001. They have no time, money, or heart left for those with the greatest needs. Continue reading

Outer Circle Churches (Part 5 of 6ish)

[As you can see, this is a multi-post theme and if you might find it helpful to begin at the beginning.]

Here are three more things that distinguish an Outer Circle Church.

An Outer Circle Church runs after the poor, not away from them.

I have some urban missionary friends who recently moved their house ministry from San Francisco across the bay to Oakland, California. These amazing people have an incarnational approach to community transformation, which means they’re committed to submerging themselves in and among the marginalized. And since their neighborhood has all but gentrified (gotten whiter and richer), they’re relocating to Oakland with the poor and the gang bangers that they’ve fallen in love with. What they’re doing is the antithesis of what many churches have done for decades in America. When the neighborhoods around their church facilities become poorer and more ethnically diverse they flee further into safer, more sanitized suburbs. But these guys, instead of running away from social outcasts, they’re chasing them! “Wait, we’ll go with you!” I love it! Continue reading

Outer Circle Churches (Part 2 of 6ish)

[As you can see, this is a multi-post theme and you might find it helpful to begin at the beginning. And the “ish” – well, that’s because I don’t really know long this is going to be. Every time I think I’m done, I think of something else to say. The curse of the preacher I suppose. We know how to take off and fly around in circles, but never quite sure how to land.]

I have no doubt that Jesus wants to say to all disciples at their end of life performance review:

“I was hungry, and instead of stuffing yourself to obesity you bought me lunch. I was thirsty, and you quit buying sparkling mineral water and dug clean water wells in my community. I was a stranger, and instead of having me deported, you got to know me and realized that I left my country to make enough money to send some home to my starving family. I needed clothes, and instead of buying more shoes to add to your grand collection, you took me shopping for my first pair of new jeans. I was sick, and instead of pointing out the behaviors that led to my sickness, you took me to the doctor and paid my bill. I was in prison and you didn’t say I was getting what I deserved, but you befriended me on visiting days and helped me find a job when I got out.” Continue reading

Outer Circle Churches (Part 1 of 6)

The Church is at her best when she specializes in outcasts – the more outrageous brand of outcasts the better. This is the kind of church I call an “Outer Circle Churches,” which are made up of “Outer Circle Christians,” the title of a recent essay I posted on Luke 15. Here’s a Readers Digest version of that writing:

Jesus is not so much looking for Inner Circle favorites but Outer Circle followers who are willing to collaborate with him in loving and serving the least and the left out. His not-very-messiah-like-looking mission disgusted the favorite spiritual sons of the day prompting him to challenge them to rethink their sequestration away from undesirables and follow his example to engage with the cast offs of their society.

I think Jesus wants us to avoid all forms of entitled elitist Inner Circle attitudes and accompany him at the table with “with tax collectors and sinners.” These so-called “Outer Circle Christians” tend to gather with others of similar stripe in what I’d like to call “Outer Circle Churches.”
Continue reading