The Hooker, The Healer, & The Open Source Church.

This morning, I came over to Jitters, the local coffee shop, to do some writing. I took my usual spot in the back, near an outlet, and settled in. A couple at a time, people trickled in and joined me in the back area of the coffee shop. I saw bibles and notebooks and quickly realized a morning Bible Study was gathering. For a moment, I enjoyed the private knowledge I had that I was a Christian, that I was going to be writing an essay about **being** the church, and doing so within earshot of their study. Quickly, the group’s number spilled over the amount of available chairs. I opted to give them my table and chairs and move to another part of the coffee shop. One woman in particular wanted to make sure they weren’t running me off. She even invited me to join them! I declined so I could get this written. But now, I’ve got iTunes Radio on [FolkAlley.com](http:www.folkalley.com) and I’m trying to drown out the fellow leading the group. He’s PREACHING back there!If you’re wondering whether or not I’m going to bash them, I’m not. From what I can tell you, THAT is church back there. And I’m hoity toity enough to believe that writing ABOUT church is more important than accepting the impromptu invitation to experience a communal interaction with others talking about the Word of God.Funny. I almost wish they HAD done something to offend me! I wish I had a reason to NOT like what they’re doing back there. But I can’t and here’s why:Anymore, I’m convinced that what happens on Sundays is NOT church. It’s a gathering OF the church. Again, those 8-10 people I can see over my left shoulder ARE CHURCH.I’m even starting to understand John Howell’s recent reply:John Howell: >…once I started focusing on meeting God every day, every place, every time and changing the things about me that I needed to, then I finally realized that the church is inconsequential in the grand scheme of my life. Inconsequential in the sense that I don’t need the church, I need God. nothing more and nothing less. He can correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think he means “Sunday morning” not “church.” I asked Rudy last night at Starbucks where the word *CHURCH* came from. He pointed to *ecclesia* and of course, I looked it up to make sure I spelled it right. And I learned that though our *definition* of church has come from that word, perhaps the word itself likely came from another Greek word, *kuriakon.* I’m having My Big Fat Greek Wedding flashbacks now. Those words mean gathering or Lord’s House, respectively. In the here and now, I’m okay with the former but NOT the latter. Let’s face it–the Greeks liked their buildings. And the noble effort they put into building them with such quality is ironic, considering that many of them are still standing (if only a few columns) whereas most “churches” being built today have about as much staying power as an Indiana mobile home. That’s not terribly impressive.You’d think that by now I’d be OVER THIS. And I nearly am. But I have to keep checking these thoughts. I need help with this. I could keep arguing about these semantics, but I think I’m just avoiding writing about what I feel I need to write about this morning.My articles’ title has your attention, and honestly, I’m not sure if I can draw the threads tight between the things in the list. I’ll try, but leave it up to you (in the comments) to help me finish the job.**Getting To It.**A woman walks up to a well. Bear with me, this is a good one. But I’m thinking of a particular Samaritan woman and her public conversation with Jesus. What do we know about the situation? Deductively, Jesus broke about 18 social mores in one fell swoop. Talking to a Samaritan, knowingly talking to a woman of ill repute, sheesh–just talking to a WOMAN. You likely already know the story. It’s in [John 4](http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=50&chapter=4&version=31) if you want to open up another window and read through it, though.I’d like to think we can be *issue-conscious* without being issue-CENTRIC, much like Jesus was to this woman. Well, he was BOTH. He’s the ultimate player-manager here. I mean, he does BOTH roles of the church and the Christ. The Bride & the Groom, in union.There are hot POLITICAL issues today that are equivocal to Jesus approaching her. I’m trying to steer clear of specifics because we all have cataracts towards them and I’m not sure you’ll hear me if I open the can of worms by listing an example or two. That’s important, because a GLARING FAILURE I see right now is the fact that WE never even MAKE IT to the well because of all the damn issues we get snared with en route. Issues that are earthbound. Issues that won’t exist in eternity. And ultimately, issues that by involving ourselves in them won’t make a flying flip of a difference because ultimately, they’re judgment calls beyond our authority and jurisdiction. Our blind judgment (which we *think* is supported by scripture, but really, we’ve been deceived) keeps us from introducing Jesus to our Samaritans. Oh, just for fun, some of you will enjoy reading [THIS](http://ragarambler.blogspot.com/2005/02/just-how-shocking-is-gospel.html). But, some of you won’t finish this article if you follow the link. You know who you are. Ironically, THIS GUY actually DOES what I was too afraid to do here. I take that as something. I’m not sure what, just something.It’s just that, these days, I’m afraid of being one of the gasping on-lookers who just stared in disbelief at their interaction. I’m afraid that instead of emulating Him I am only able to nitpick and judge when faced with a similar circumstance. Have any of us ever belonged to a church where we took a risk of “lowering our standards” and had it “taken over by homosexuals?” Yeah, me neither. But I have seen many a church ruined by crappy teaching, inflated budgets, and lousy music. Well, ruined for me.I think of working on a “man on the street” video for church (what’s with that anyway?). It was two or three years ago, and I was out with Matt and Jim looking for answers to the question, “What is church?” Upon passing a popular local bar, I said we should stop. Matt especially got a kick out of the idea of getting this question answered in there. Being the “professional” I pretend to be, I asked the waitress if I could speak to the manager. He wasn’t there so she vetted my question for permission to shoot in there. I introduced myself and told her that we were with such and such church. She cuts me off and tells me I shouldn’t even be in there! Isn’t that hysterical? We’re so good at telling others what’s right and wrong that even on a subconscious level her belief system told her that WE didn’t belong there!Much the same as the Samaritan Woman at the well. Jesus SHOULD NOT be talking to her, according to what she’d been taught. But he corrected that. And I keep going back to the text, trying to find WHERE he told her to “go and sin no more,” as he often did. And it’s not there. Which doesn’t mean he condoned her lifestyle–he just sought a deeper levl of priority in relationship with her. In NOT “fixing her” Jesus accomplished so much more!And hear the result: >v.39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. Ironically, this well was **Jacob’s Well** and isn’t it interesting–there just so happens to be ANOTHER good “woman walks up to a well” story that consequently involves Jacob himself. How about a quick review:The woman was Rachel. She’s pretty. Jacob kisses her. Jacob sacrifices to EARN
her marriage. He gets Leah instead. She’s the ugly sister. So he continues his pursuit. He eventually gets Rachel too. Then he’s whipped as their sugar daddy, going back and forth between their tents, unable to sate their unquenchable thirst for MORE children. Let’s not forget that poor Jake didn’t even get a break when the women themselves couldn’t bear children who then called in their own respective maidservants to pinch hit for them! Notice: there’s not much written about Jacob complaining or feeling slighted for being reduced to a sperm bank.Friend, Dave Drury has used this story in metaphor more than once with me. He likes to think of the church as Rachel and basically anything else “we settle for” as Leah. A distraction from the true prize. I’ve given it a bunch of thought and I don’t think it holds water. It’s a broken analogy because, the church is BOTH sisters. And chasing ONE OR THE OTHER is a danger. We do that. We only chase the fickle, hottie Rachel, or we stay put with the dependable, yet not-so-glamorous Leah. However you want to interpret it, one thing’s certain historically. It took BOTH wives (and their maidservants) to birth the nation of Israel. BOTH, in a not-so-graceful progression, were needed to manifest God’s plan for fulfilling His promise to Abraham.**The Open Source Church.**I think Open Source Church is part of the solution. And I’m not alone on this: >Since both software development and theology represent the description and assembly of a complex system, I think the parallels are apt. Since the Free software movement and GNU/Linux in particular probably represent one of the first consciously-destructured community approaches to a complex project, I suggest that Emergent could learn much from the structure employed there, even though it won’t likely translate directly.

–Brother Maynard of [SubversiveInfluence.com](http://www.subversiveinfluence.com/wordpress/index.php?p=57) This is a great site, and the harmony with OUR conversation is NOT happenstance. If you don’t have a real job, spend the day surfing and reading about his struggles and process. Especially his journey with [church and small groups](http://www.subversiveinfluence.com/articles/mychurchjourney.shtml).But his point is well-made, and concurrent with my thoughts prior to discovering his site. So, allow me quickly teach thou luddites in attendance the virtue and philosophy of all things Open Source. [Wikipedia.org](http://wikipedia.org) defines “Open Source” thusly: >Open source refers to projects that are open to the public and which draw on other projects that are freely available to the general public. Openness, open content, and communal are other related topics. This article deals mostly with computer software. >Open source or open-source software (OSS) is any computer software distributed under a license which allows users to change and/or share the software freely. Many programs use a specific license agreement satisfying the Open Source Definition. Rudy’s now doing his mock of me speaking in binary. Let the record stand that I have NEVER spoken binary. Only Klingon. Seriously–it’s described as COMMUNAL. And if you’re visiting the Wikipedia for the first time, I should let you know that it is an Open Source Encyclopedia. Yup. And would you believe it’s AHEAD of World Book and Brittanica in terms of it’s currency? How can they afford to do that? By leaving the door unlocked–you can add and/or edit at will per subjects you have a corner on. Huh?”Open Source” has become a geek-buzzword because the internet has connected multitudes of smart individuals who were tired of dealing with the software giants for fixes, upgrades, and feature requests that were going unanswered. [OpenOffice.org](http://openoffice.org) is probably the best mainstream example as they offer a FREE and current alternative to Microsoft Office.Some of you are still using Internet Explorer to read this article. And you’ve heard my admonition to FLEE from it and use [Firefox](http://getfirefox.com) instead. It’s just BETTER, it’s free, and it’s a very popular piece of software made as Open Source by unpaid coders.Let me try again. I shall lead by [example](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Nentrup).That’s my entry that I wrote myself. Please, add to it. Granted by the time you read this, the Wikipedia Gatekeepers (all volunteers) may designate my page as narcism, which they flag as a deal-breaker, and yank my entry from the database before I get to prove my awesome point, and you get to tell the world what you think about me.And that point is simply this. We’re in an era where THIS MODEL must be applied to our “God-Process.” It must become communal and non-hierarchical. It must become full-access. Denominational (even NON-Denominational) approaches are simply a capitalist application to church. It’s competitive, labeling, exclusive, and likewise prone to bloat.Open Source software is organic, non-hierarchical, lean in process AND product, and EVERYONE has access–if she would so desire. Shouldn’t our “God-Process” be no different? Shouldn’t we AS INDIVIDUALS be changed and affected IN COMMUNITY with no restraint in our access to the Heart of God? I think we should be able to learn, share, participate, and receive, just as these software coders have done with their work. For the record, I’m just an observer of technology, not an expert or participating coder, but from what I can see, the movement having it’s impact on the big dogs such as Microsoft. It’s changing their game plans which is an affirmation that it works if it can lever such a big entity.Side-note: Apple’s last HUGE operating system shift was to build on the foundation of the Unix system, which is in many ways the genesis of the open source movement. And in while sitting here, a friend walked into the coffee shop, saw my laptop and struck up “the Apple conversation” with me. He looks forward to buying an Apple Computer soon, but can’t quite afford too yet (or so he believes). Yet he DID have the foresight last spring to buy 200 shares of Apple stock when it was going for $18/share. It closed in the $80 range recently and he used some earnings to buy himself an iPod. Well, APPLE bought him the iPod! Amazing. But, as usual, I digress–slightly.What about OUR source code as believers–that which is written on our hearts? Didn’t Jesus create unrestricted access to that? I’d like to think he did for that woman. And man, she sure took it and ran.Some of your remember taking the “ISTEP Test.” I’m doing the Standardized Testing analogy “a baloo is a bear” right now in my mind, but I’m using the phrase “traditional big-building church is Microsoft.” I’m trying to compare the two things from different universes, looking for helpful similarities. Here’s what I’m coming up with: Too big for it’s own good, unable to listen to it’s support base and implement it’s requests. It’s not carrying it’s own weight, but for most folks, good enough because it’s all we’ve got. Wrong. It’s all we’ve HAD until recently.The “House Church” movement is here. I’m learning about it, and I LOVE what I see. It makes sense on so many levels with me, though I’ve yet to participate in one. But when I do, I know that that’s just what I’ll do–participate. I think I’m ready to see the shift happen from first, big gathering, second small gathering, to SMALL gathering first, LARGE gathering secondly.They’re building a “stand alone” Starbucks in town. Yes, believe it or not, the only one we have is the one in the new Target. And it’s on my side of town. I kind of look forward to the idea that not too into the future, I can squint and see the church I attend back there at the table and in the soft chairs. I can even see us getting together for Easter or Christmas at the Commons downtown with a few other groups for a larger bash.I think it’d be exciting to get a fresh cup of strong coffe, sit down, and share “source code” with these other people–these other Samaritans who met Jesus.

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