Monday, July 20, 2009


While driving home today from Abilene, I believe the Lord really revealed some things to me. I am part of a small group that is seeking the presence of the Lord through the book Sacred Pathways and community with each other.

In this group I have shared my struggle with this thing we call "church." Church as we know it, is hard for me. Probably will always be. I love rapid change, I am a product of Post-Modernity, I am uninstitutional - all things that make regular church hard. But God, in the gentle whisper is speaking to me.

God prompted me to begin defining what my ideal church would look like. And so I made a mental list. The ideal church:

Works for justice:
for the under-represented in this country
for the marginalized around the globe
for the gay community who are denied basic rights in their relationships

Has full and equal participation in worship, in ministry, in service:
the only qualifying question is: who is most gifted to fit this role?

Has worship that is vibrant, dynamically current and engaging.

Encounters the Lord through the arts.

That sees itself as a place for hundreds of intimate communities to experience "worship together" and to equip Christians to go and live like Christ in their actual worlds.

Is organized around, defined by intimate communities within the larger whole.

I felt smug and proud of my mental list. And then God prompted me again. What would David's list look like? What about Michelle, or Allyson? What about Sally, Missy, Adam, Greg. What about Matt? Slowly I began to realize all the "Ideal Lists" would look significantly different. Some of what is core to my list, would be unattractive to David. He would probably fill his list with things that reach back to his Catholic roots - things that have shaped him and he loves and adores. Clearly, I heard the question, So why should your list prevail?

And I began to realize what God was leading me to. The real challenge is this. What is stopping me from being church (the ideal list) in every aspect of my life. What is stopping me from working for justice, of creating the kind of community I value, worshipping regularly in the way I described. I already have wonderful opportunities to teach across the globe, recently, even preach - what a joy that was! And God has opened the door for me to work with Center Peace to help provide a place of belonging for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

Instead of an unholy discontent with church as it exists currently, what about being an incarnational example of what I believe in. Why not be the church. If being like Christ is really the goal, if sharing His heartbeat is what I am aiming for, does the representation of church really matter. If my inner life is so God directed that I am fully present with Him what does it matter.

These are hard things. Kingdom things. Relational things. My prayer is that God will continue to call me to a holy discontent: a real hunger for Him. And when my spirit of unholy discontent about church creeps in, I can ask Him to temper that with what really matters.


WendyC said...

Convicting post, Arlene! I love your heart for Jesus.

Arlene Kasselman said...

thanks Wendy - one of the joys of the journey to me is that God continues to unfold new ways for us mature....right now He is swamping me with them :-)

Allison said...

isn't it so true? I am with you in my impatience at times to wait on the Lord's timing in bringing change to the church. such a good reminder of what I can "be" in the meantime!

and praise him for putting all of us together in community to really learn beyond ourselves because of differences! how exhilirating!

jeleasure said...

Hi Arlene,
I have not forgotten about you. In fact, your post contains some ideas that I have come to know you by, and therefore, I think about the things you have written and those things I have come to know that you champion.

Arlene, I also think you have come to know me through my writing.

If we are going to worship The Lord, we must do what saith The Lord. In my life, I have had difficulty (an understatement, however the word is appropriate) in my ability to always do this. It is because, I think I know what is best for me. I believe that God will forgive my desire to dictate what belongs in my relationship with Him. And then, the realization...This is what Adam and Eve also considered in their permissive behavior. This is "SIN". To live our lives for ourselves, and not for what The Lord has intended. This, to the neglect of our relationship with He and those around us.

It is a wonderful thing to be a philanthropist and a champion for "Human Rights". Fact is, we all have the 'right' to do what we desire. However, that is the problem...God gave us that "right" in order that we would edify Him be denying our "right" and living for Him.

I don't expect you to post this, Arlene. I changed email accounts, and have not been able to (quickly) locate your email address.

Blessings to you.

Arlene Kasselman said...

Jim, it is good to hear from you. I have checked on your blog several times over the summer to see if you have been writing recently. I spent three weeks in Australia and PNG and now my husband is in Kenya - too much travel for one summer and so blogging and blog reading has gotten behind.

I appreciate your comments. I am a verbal processor and so I use my blog to process my thoughts. I never expect all readers to agree. And I know that not everyone is called by the Lord to champion the same things. And this post was really focused on me dealing with the things that are central to me. I know that we are on different pages when it comes to some issues. That is okay to me.

Even though we know each other through writing I know that you love the Lord with everything you have. I know you seek Him in the word. I know you want to be like Him. I know you value the church and its role in the world. All of these things are shared values of mine.

Please never feel that I can not hear you because we see a few things from different perspectives.

Bless you and your ability to communicate, Jim.

God's Children said...

Keep on thinking "out loud" on your blog. We individual Christians are The Church. If we will go about "being Jesus with skin on," doing what God brings to us to care about, we will have less time to fret about what we don't like about The Corporate Church.

My "daughter," I love you.