Listening to: Neil Young
Reading: letters to teenage versions of all of my friends, nothing from ‘House Church’ (because I’m too old for Instagram)
Writing About: Revival, Community, Zeal, Maturity, and Church
The Eternal Hamster Wheel Of Relevance
Every old person wants to know that they still matter.
There are a lot of tools we use to show this:
The stuff we had when we were young was better than your current garbage
This one is easy to recognize, you’ve heard it a million times.
The idea is that we still matter because
we ‘had the good stuff’
You will eventually come around to appreciate our stuff.
This thing that is important to you is exactly like
this other thing that was important to me
This one is more subtle and rare.
The idea is that we still matter because
we understand what’s going on — we have already lived it,
Our experience is yours, but better (with time)
If you have no idea what ‘House Church’ is, you’ll have to use context clues
– because you’re not going to find any real information about it on the internet
unless you already know what it is –
Friends at House Church,
Friends at House Church,
I wanted to chat with you all because:
This thing that is important to you,
is exactly like this other thing that was important to me.
When I was young I was involved in a super intense Christian Community centered around a super intense church experience.
I recently sent out a call to folks who were in or around that movement to gather advice.
This is what they said
The advice I was gathering was for you.
You were the intended audience of that advice.
All of this is, ultimately, irrelevant.
I have no intention of controlling or stopping what is happening in your community.
I couldn’t if I wanted to.
Most of you don’t even know me.
And I guarantee you don’t read blogs that are only distributed on Facebook.
But, in that way that old guys do, I felt I had something to say.
It’s All Good
It’s easy to see what is great about an ecstatic movement of God
fueled by youthful energy.
It’s obvious that when teenagers spend Friday nights
praying for each other, pushing each other towards Holy Living, and focusing on Spiritual Development
Good things are happening.
You don’t need my affirmation,
but we (old people) know great things are happening.
God is doing something, and that is exciting
All Almost All Good
When I look back on my experience,
There are things I would change,
Things I could not see at the time.
I wanted to tell you some of these things.
Take them or leave them.
Young Tyler would have left them.
The Holiness of Regular Life
My community drew bright line between
‘The Movement’ and ‘The Church.’
We would talk about “Spirit Inspired Revival” and “Dead Religion”
And guess what,
The Spirit stuff just happened to be all of the stuff we were into;
And the dead stuff just happened to be stuff where old people were around.
People like me, now – telling us what to do.
That was “religion”
If worship was truly worship:
It was 20 – 200 minutes of high intensity, white-guy Gospel music.
if it was worship, people were dancing and shouting
If hands weren’t up, or there was a book involved
it was dead.
The intense kind of worship that comes
out of a closed community of youth,
is something special.
And it’s something great.
And, like youth itself, it is fleeting.
All of us had a VERY DIFFICULT time
finding our footing in faith (and church)
when the movement dissipated.
It took me a long time to learn to look for
and find God
In the mundane life that I live now.
Not because God isn’t present,
But because I only associated God’s presence
With the particular, and peculiar, experience
that I was addicted to.
I had ‘goosebump’ withdrawals.
And God works through a lot of non-tingly stuff.
Even the Bible itself is a highlight reel, right?
For every Acts 2, you have a half dozen letters to dysfunctional churches
where God is at work.
That’s the Bible – we’re not better than them!
Close Knit – Closed Community
The word ‘cult’ was thrown around plenty when I was a teenager.
And, as annoying as it was, it was also (kind of) true.
Teenagers are intense, I was – my friends were.
When all of our regular (hormonal/developmental) teenage intensity
Was channeled into a worshipping community,
We became very tight knit.
A lot of my closest friends (to this day) are from those years.
What we didn’t know then, that we do now,
is that – to the outsider – there is no difference between
a very ‘tight / authentic / close-knit Christian community’
and a ‘clique / cult ‘
We excluded Christians and Heathens alike
(we used to use that term to refer to our friends who still needed to be saved)
We didn’t do it on purpose,
We wanted everyone to be in on our thing –
on our terms, in our timing (if we liked their personality enough).
We had sins we cared about – vocally
Sins that defined the line between ‘us’ and ‘them.’
Party related sins.
Then we had others we just ignored,
Because, you know, they were the ones we did.
Softer stuff, not so easy to define or identify.
But sin nonetheless.
We had no outside influence, we were an echo chamber –
We couldn’t hear criticism from outside our circle,
Even if it was true. That was pride. We had that one.
But at least we were sober and proud, right?
I don’t regret my attention to personal holiness.
I regret letting that focus drive a wedge between me and other people God loves.
I regret the way we trained each other to look for the ‘low hanging fruit’ sins,
It left me with the difficult stuff to deal with later on.
We didn’t acknowledge theology or church history in any way.
That was the stuff we called ‘dead’ and ‘religion’
“Religion Destroys | Christ Saves” I had that on a patch.
As if I could separate my understanding of Christ from church history!
As if I were the first guy to ever figure out how to follow Christ – a pioneer!
For us, there was Nothing that mattered
outside of our current Spiritual Experience.
We called it freedom, we called it “the Gospel”
Here is the problem, the last one:
Theology is like design – you don’t have to acknowledge it
(But that doesn’t mean it’s not there)
There is no blank slate.
We would say we believed “the Gospel” and were living as “Spirit Filled Christians”
we would actively oppose any categories that clarified those terms.
But there were categories:
We were Theologically Conservative Evangelicals, we were part of a Pentecostal Holiness tradition, and we were all extremely politically conservative.
Young Tyler just shouted at me from the past,
because those terms are all infuriating to him – he’s too punk rock for those labels.
But not acknowledging them doesn’t make them less true.
This willful ignorance of faith outside of our circle
was a function of rebellion, which I did (and do) have in spades!
Carry on !
if I’m totally honest, it’s easy for me to see Young Tyler in House Church.
That may be me just trying to matter.
But it’s not.
Old Tyler doesn’t care if I matter, not a bit.
So friends, by all means, carry on!
If God is doing something – follow God,
Use your heart and use your brain.
Follow the Spirit and grow.
The church needs you.
And, friends, you need the church as well.
– Old Tyler