Dan MacDonald & PFKATPFKATC

kinnon —  April 22, 2007 — 12 Comments

Dan is a good friend of mine and the pastor of Grace Toronto Church. (Dan will have his own blog, soon.) He wrote this in the comments of the previous post:

I raise a glass to the People Formerly Known as the People Formerly Known as the Congregation, who, upon hearing that their disaffection had created a tsunami-like publicity wave that was about to become a Zondervan marketing campaign and then a new para-church ministry (40 Days of Anti- Purpose?), quietly realized that it was no use. Even their defiance had become hip. Soon CNN would be calling, and Larry King would be asking them for an interview. Sigh.

And so, with heavy hearts, they looked around for the most authentic expression of Christianity they could find. It wasn’t in the Christian bookstores. It wasn’t in the radio programs. It wasn’t even in the TV shows; Lord, no. Oprah didn’t quite make it. Benny and Jimmy and the TBN gang had too much hair spray and too many white suits and ever-white teeth. And it was no longer in the blog weave known as TPFKATWhatever, which was now hopelessly popular, cool, hip, and with it.

So they dragged themselves down to the local church. Not the magnet Uber-church that took up 15 acres of land, but the local church with the faded sign and the musty carpet. And there, they found something bizarre.

Second-rate music, draggy announcements, bad children’s stories, dated PowerPoint templates, and something else…. real parents who were teaching children about Jesus with joy in their hearts. Ushers who loved to serve. Snacks teams that laughed as they missed the last part of the service just to feed a hundred people. Guitarists in tears over a cheesy illustration by the young pastoral intern, who was so nervous he had forgotten to button his shirt properly and was speaking for 58 minutes because by gosh, since he only got to preach twice a year, he was going to tell them everything he had learned in the past 6 months. And patient singles, couples and parents nodding dutifully to him, knowing he was nervous and helping him feel loved and prophetic and useful. and finding that in those 58 minutes were some very helpful things for them, because a Voice was using this intern in his inadequacy.

And that Voice, the Voice of the Shepherd, touched the PFKATPFKATC. And they remembered why it took them so long to become the PFKATC. Because despite the second-rate production values, the Spirit was here. He promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in His name. Excellent it wasn’t- Cheesy it was. Authentic? Go ask the snacks coordinator if her joy is authentic, and she’ll think you’re from another planet. You can’t DREAM UP this kind of second-rate cheese combined with this much first-rate joy in our culture any more; it has to be authentic.

So they- the PFTATC, that is, decided to be radical and do a crazy thing. They called up the People Presently Known as Pastors, and found a bunch of peope equally frustrated, tired, restless, and hopeful. And they talked. And the PFKATCongregation realized the PPKATPastors hardly read blogs, because they are so busy dealing with the complaints and needs of the People Still in Their Congregation. The pastors were stunned that these people cared so much; they had assumed the leaving was because the PFKATC cared too little.

And lo and behold, they each found out something wondrous and true, and that is this: that the people presently known as pastors mostly got into the pastorate for people like the PFKATC, because you care so much about the kingdom. And so do we.

And so I raise a glass, as a Person Still Willing To Call Myself a Pastor, to You, the People About to Be Known Again As The Congregation. I know church isn’t what it should be. That’s my fault- and yours. I stamped it with my pathologies, and so did you. Don’t try to bail on your responsibility just because I got paid to do this full time. Guess who paid me? This sucker is OURS, first to last. It’s wounded, and weak, and corrupted, and full of hypocrisy- I agree.

But the funny thing is… it IS the body of Christ. A messed up, messy, ego-saturated, hypocritical institution on earth. With idiots like you and me running it, what did you expect? Oh yeah, and one more thing – it is also His Bride. The glorious, triumphant, sinful yet forgiven, cleansed, spotless Bride against whom the Gates of Hell shall not prevail.

If you turn your back on His Bride, you turn your back on Him. And since you are His, you won’t do that. You will come back and help make the Bride beautiful again. Because you care. There is enough piss and vinegar and sadness and passion and real, Spirit-groaning hope in these blog threads to start a new Reformation. It’s high time we started. Who’s got the nails for the Door? I’ll bring the hammer.

And drink a glass to you all. Welcome back.

Cheers.

Dan

Dan made me laugh and skewered me with the truth. I look forward to your comments on this.

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kinnon

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

12 responses to Dan MacDonald & PFKATPFKATC

  1. Asleep in the light no more!

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  2. Bill:

    Thanks for posting this.

    Dan:

    I LOVED this. When I wrote We are the Prodigals, I was trying to make a point that while I am despairing of what I find in church, I am the prodigal son, having come back to church, to home, after so many years of wandering and frustration. Only to find more frustration (but that doesn’t mean I am ready to wander again). Hmmm, maybe that means it’s up to me, with the Spirit leading, to get in there and help fix it, and I am willing to do that, and hope that came through in my post. My goal now is focusing on how to do that in a constructive, missional way. And per your point, at least in my church I do not think the pastors are the problem – they are two loving, humble, God-fearing men. I do agree with you that we must all claim some responsibility for what church has become, and hopefully together we can fix it.

    God’s blessings,

    Jim

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  3. I’ve been wondering what the end game is. The “Church of the People formally known as the Congregation”? Probably not, but the reality is that misery loves company, and as one pastor in my neck of the woods described his, “We the church for people burned out on church”, I wondered where does this go? All the expressions of bad experience in the church are true. Yet, what’s the alternative? Where do you go? The reality is that we are the church. Like it or not. They, those people who have disrespect, abused and treated us crappily, are the church too. At some point, we have to resign ourselves to the truth that we must take the church as it is and seek to improve it by our own individual and collective actions. That doesn’t mean I accept it as it is, only that if I continue to look for the “right” church I never really discover if I’m the “right” person for my current one.

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  4. Yes and Amen. A thousand times Amen.

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  5. Good stuff here, I appreciate you posting it. I resonate with so much of what Dan has to say here!

    One thing I have to take issue with, however, as one of “the people formerly known”: leaving institutional church isn’t the same as turning our back on the Bride. Some of us will undoubtedly return to traditional expressions of church and work to start a new Reformation. Some of us will remain “outside the four walls”, and yet passionate and bleeding and serving His Bride nonetheless…just not with the traditonal trappings.

    We as Christians ARE the body of Christ, but the buildings/institutions that operate on Sundays? They’re one expression of that Body, but not the only one. There’s something new afoot for us PFKATC post-modern-post-political-post-evangelical-whatever-people.

    Still, this is a fine piece of writing and he makes MANY good points that we all need to take to hear. Go, Dan! Get your own blog, we want to read it!

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  6. Thanks, Heidi. I agree that the body exists in bigger form than within the institutional walls of the church buildings. I also know that the Spirit who is within us is irresistibly attracted to Himself as He indwells others, and will irresisitbily magnetize and re-shape His Bride. We who are His cannot resist the urge to congregate, even if it starts on a blog. It won’t end there. The passion for the kingdom expressed in these various blog threads will find its outlet in helping to shape the church that is being born. Every generation re-forms the church; in my tradition we call it semper reformanda – the church is always reforming. To stay true to the Word as He calls us, the Word as He speaks to us in His scriptures, and the Spirit as He guides us. we must always be moving away from the cultural blinders of the present church and the idolatries of the past generation. But we will make our own idols and fall into our own blind spots, so that the next generation must also re-form the church. Let us humbly appreciate the work of the giants who have got us this far, and do our best to stand on their shoulders and do our part for our generation.
    SDG – and thanks for the encouragement

    Dan

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  7. Dan –

    Thanks for your comment. I really loved what you said… “We who are His cannot resist the urge to congregate, even if it starts on a blog. It won’t end there. The passion for the kingdom expressed in these various blog threads will find its outlet in helping to shape the church that is being born.” Amen to that. The fact that pastors like you exist really encourage me in my journey….a good reminder that God is at work in all of us, igniting our passion for his bride and showing us how to live in him. Our stories may look different but I love that our hearts are the same. Thank you for your generosity and understanding. When are you getting a blog? 😉

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  8. Thank you for the comments, Dan – this is really the ultimate destination for anyone who is journeying the TPFKA….

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  9. This is well-written, and graceful.

    But the institutional church as we’ve known it is here equated with the Bride of Christ. I have to humbly disagree.

    Ultimately, there is no “welcome back”, because we haven’t left the church. We haven’t “turned our back on Him”, or even musty carpets and bad powerpoint presentations.

    I can tell you that, for us, this departure from the institutional church has been tremendously good news — for our neighbors. And it turns out, they’ve got musty carpets, too.

    We certainly didn’t leave the church is messy. We’ve embraced a far messier model, and done with less, not more, excellence.

    We’re not turning our back on Jesus; I rather think we’re running toward Him.

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  10. Brent, I agree. This post is well written, but a little flawed. If you’re inside the institution, unfortunately, it is very difficult to separate that from the Bride. I have great hope that our brothers and sisters still trapped on the inside will escape and the blinders will fall away and they’ll begin to see the magnitude and beauty of the Church and they’ll realize that She is not and will not be abandoned.

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  11. Brent,

    Thanks. I agree completely; you -we- haven’t left the church, even when we thought we did. The ‘welcome back’ was tongue in cheek.

    Dan

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  12. I don’t really know what you are talking about with these two groups that got together, but I do know where I experienced “the love of Jesus.” I experienced that love when I went to India this past January and I saw “living epistles” as the Body of Christ there served one another (and us) in humility, esteeming others better than themselves. What could we, their Americanized brothers adn sisters possibly tell them (with words) when they were “telling” us by their actions about Jesus and His love. For example-After we were finished visiting one of the churches and had gotten into the SUV, I thought I had left my Bible and said so, and before I finished, my brother, Rajesh, said, “I’ve got it, sister.” He was ever looking out for me and being gentle. loving, and kind. Another episode happened and they had to take me back to the hotel because I had a stomach-ache. I was worried that it would cause him to miss his part in the Pastor’s conference, and so I asked him what his responsibilities were for the conference. He said with all the love and tenderness in his eyes, “My only responsibility is taking care of you, sister.” My heart melted as the love of Jesus through him touched me.
    Does Jesus through his Spirit just reside in India? Of course not. But I believe that we are so trying to find out how to do church, that we won’t let God have His way in us to flow in giving our lives to others that we can’t BE His church. I want that humility which is of Christ, but I first have to lay my life aside for Him to impart His in me.

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