reframing crazy when it comes to church

blog reframing crazy when it comes to churchhow many times have you all heard me talk about our “crazy” little church, the refuge?   and about how people i know who are doing all kinds of wild & beautiful missional things for the kingdom are a “little crazy but not alone”?  or how “crazy” my life in the trenches is?

i use the word “crazy” all the time when i talk about life down here because compared to the big church machine, it is.

people really do think we are crazy (can’t tell you the number of people who say “i could never do what you guys do” like it’s some kind of weird anomaly in the church of Jesus Christ to actively love one another [that’s crazy]).  but the truth is that we’ve sort of adopted that language, too.  that what we’re doing is somehow “crazy”.

i recently had a very short but lovely conversation with two missional church cultivators who are doing what we’d call “crazy” work, too.   in the conversation one of them said, “i used to think we were crazy but then i started re-thinking it.  i began to say, hey, we’re not the crazy ones here. read the gospels, this is so not crazy.  that system is what’s crazy!”

“that system is what’s crazy!”

those words have really lingered and i’ve been thinking about them all week.

what if we reframed crazy when it comes to church?

what if instead of thinking that small-missional-communities-and-people-working-on-the-fringes-of-life-and-faith were crazy, we started thinking that maybe these things were actually crazy instead:

isn’t it a little crazy that in the church supposedly built upon the teachings of Jesus Christ that half of the population is silenced and kept underneath the other half? 

isn’t it a little crazy that millions of people go to church each week and never talk to anyone past saying “hello” to a greeter?

isn’t it a little crazy that the same people who are marginalized on the outside of the church are marginalized on the inside, too?

isn’t it a little crazy that there is usually never a really poor person or a hurting person or a single mom on a board of elders?

isn’t it a little crazy that for the most part the pretty and the popular and the outwardly strong are the only ones we ever see or hear from up front?

isn’t it a little crazy that millions of dollars are spent on buildings & staff salaries while people in the congregations are on food stamps & medicaid?

isn’t it a little crazy how much money & energy & time is spent on dynamic teaching, amazing worship, and an awesome kids program that happens for one hour every week?

isn’t it a little crazy that every church has so many people with amazing gifts & passions & talents that not one person in their congregation even knows about?

isn’t it a little crazy that there are so many people who go to church each week but do not personally know one single poor person ?

isn’t it a little crazy that following Jesus has become about going to church & believing certain things & listening to certain radio stations or voting for certain candidates?

isn’t it a little crazy that pastors have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to seminaries to somehow become “qualified”?  

isn’t it a little crazy that we don’t think this is crazy?

seriously, we need to reframe crazy when it comes to church!

a place where people can share openly about their addictions & struggles & hopes & doubts & fears.  breaking the divide between us & them.  women freely leading alongside men as equals.  all welcome and not only until they’re actually honest. safe places for gifts to be fanned into flame with no power or control trips.  a focus on living out the Bible instead of talking about the Bible.  tangible ways to love & care & serve & learn how to be a friend.  dialogue instead of passive listening.  experiencing instead of watching.

i’m pretty sure when it comes to following Jesus these things aren’t supposed to be “crazy”.  

to the world, yes.  to the church built on his name, um, i don’t think so.

yeah, we so need to reframe crazy when it comes to church.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

37 Comments

  • kathy – this was an amazing post and so right on. i have been reading and journeying with you over the last several posts and haven’t commented, but this time, i just couldn’t read this (bo sent me here) without saying a resounding YES! love you, love what you’re doing, and love that you make me feel a little less crazy! thank you!

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    • thank sue, so glad you are here and thanks for taking time to share.

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  • YES, Yes, yes, those things are “crazy” and once you have become aware how “crazy” the “big church machine” is, and how exclusive it is and how completely devoid it is of the Kingdom Living and LOVE of God you can’t stomach going back into it! In my experience, the big church machine is a exclusive social/political club for like-minded privileged people. I am seeking something very different. Just like you said…I am seeking a “a place where people can share openly about their addictions & struggles & hopes & doubts & fears. breaking the divide between us & them. women freely leading alongside men as equals. all welcome and not only until they’re actually honest. safe places for gifts to be fanned into flame with no power or control trips. a focus on living out the Bible instead of talking about the Bible. tangible ways to love & care & serve & learn how to be a friend. dialogue instead of passive listening. experiencing instead of watching”. AMEN!!! YES!! I know of two churches locally that are close, but they do not allow women into any leadership positions…so I will keep looking! In the meantime…I will continue to meet in small groups…

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it is helpful to think this stuff through so we don’t get stuck.

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    • a “social political club for like-minded privileged people.” so good. the privilege thing is something i think we need to keep talking more and more about. thinking of you, too, as you explore and also hold to your convictions. i have so much respect for you and your journey.

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  • This is great! I’ve been trying to apply “reframing” to a lot of generally accepted/traditionally held views lately. It’s remarkable how radicaly looking at something from a different angle can change how you feel about it.

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  • My two faves:

    – “isn’t it a little crazy that there is usually never a really poor person or a hurting person or a single mom on a board of elders?”

    – “isn’t it a little crazy that for the most part the pretty and the popular and the outwardly strong are the only ones we ever see or hear from up front?”

    So much food for thought!

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    • thanks, tina, for reading and sharing. you’re awesome.

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  • True.

    I was at Orphan Summit this last weekend, a conference for anyone involved in Christian global orphan care. Francis Chan spoke Thursday night and said, “I love when I get to be in a room where I’m not the only weirdo who believes we should just live the gospel.”

    Crazy.

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  • Yes and yes!!!! Love this Kathy, now this is truth telling.

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  • I absolutely agree with the sentiment of this post and I thank you for writing it. However I have to disagree with… “Isn’t it a little crazy that there is usually never a really poor person or a hurting person or a single mom on a board of elders?” I believe scripture is clear as to who an elder should be in 1 Tim 3:1-13 and Titus 1:9-16. You are right that rich people should not be the first pick, however there are biblical reasons why a single mom should not be considered (not because of her failures, but because she has a different but still valuable role to play).
    It is easy for us to get frusterated with the “large church” for all of the above reasons. I hope that we can continue to pray for them, as they too are the bride of Christ even though they fail miserabely at fulfilling the great commission perfectly. Thank you for writing so elequantly.

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    • I don’t see anything that would keep single moms out of the board of elders in 1Timothy3. The church could help with some of the issues you bring up by providing child care for the meeting so that she could serve. They could give a ride or a gas card to a poor person so that they could serve. The point is that these things are never thought of, much less done, in most churches. Keeping in mind the issue of exclusion within the church, I did see something in 1 Timothy that caught my eye though-
      “…5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”

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    • That answer is exactly the answer that leads to the divide of which this post is talking. “because the Bible says” is one of the most irritating things a Christian has to face sometimes. The Bible, as you have just used it, is blinkers, Jesus asked us to remove the blinkers sometimes and think outside the pages, look up and out and about. I am a single mother on the Church Council and we have women in our leadership ranks. Believe me it can be done, and we read the Bible here too.

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      • Are you suggesting I say “because Jessica says”? I would rather not, as I am infallible and prone to much sin. The Bible is where I get ALL of my answers, whether I like the answers or not. I just feel as though as woman we have to face the Holy Spirit inspired scripture like 1 Tim 2:11-14 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner”…instead of cutting it out in the name of “thinking outside of the pages.”

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        • I am saying that you immediately responded with a “can’t”, “because it says it in the Bible” which is precisely the point of this post.
          One human mind is a pretty fuggy thing to be filtering purity through, no matter how inspired by the Holy Spirit, and you think the Bible is purity after having been filtered though huge committees of human minds ( majority male at that, over 1,500 years! You can’t take ALL of your answers from the Bible, that is idolatory. You have to think and pray, taking it off the page; you can not have printed words Dictate without paying attention to what the Holy Spirit is doing outside of the pages. Enquiring minds. Who even wrote 1 Timothy is not certain (academics are certain Paul did not write all 13 epistles), it was written in a different time and by males. I believe Christ asked us to take the context of life, and more importantly people, as part of our reading and to say, “Women can’t lead in the church because the Bible says so” is why the big church machine is crazy and people want the good crazy instead. Christ included everyone always, exclusion from God’s presence is self inflicted. Women were in leadership positions in church for centuries after he died but got politically & culturally taken out of it by males using just such quotes as you have used. I am very fallible and that is one reason why I treat the Bible with awareness of that same fallibility in those who wrote and translated it to bring it to us through the millenium and half. Christ is the Word, not the Bible, and it is in Him I will have all my answers.

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    • thanks, jess, for taking time to share. these are moments where we can see the scriptures differently.

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  • It is very hard for church leaders wholly invested in a system in which they have been nurtured, weaned, trained and now employed to begin seriously entertaining such “crazy” thoughts. If they do, it might require action which effects job security and the direction of their church. I was very part-time when I made my move. I had my full-time job to meet my needs. I admire leaders who put their full-time employment on the line by beginning such a journey. Good thoughts. I appreciate it!

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    • great meeting you, glen, and thanks for commenting. it is so true, job security is on the line in many of these moments. it’s what keeps so many playing it safe.

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  • There’s a guy we know who thinks the people we hang out with are “crazy”. He wouldn’t dream of going near them. We think the people he hangs out with are the real crazies, and avoid them.

    We hang out with street people, homeless, addicts, LGBTs, irreligious, Democrats, and so on. He hangs out with religious people. (Actually, he attends a mega church that spends lots of money to put on a big show and that teaches people how to think correctly.)

    My, oh my, oh my. How did the church ever get itself involved with all of this craziness? What really astounds me are the number of people who think it is not only normal, but also the way God set up the church.

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    • the status quo is very interesting, indeed, what we’ve built in Jesus’ name.

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  • Crazy indeed. Thanks for this Kathy. That’s why I opted out of church for so many years. It just seemed crazy to invest so much in an internally focused organization. I couldn’t do that. Thanks for modeling sanity for us!

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    • thanks, ed. it is really nutty and so thankful to know so many others out here who really believe in a different way. it’s so encouraging. thanks for sharing and being one of those people!

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  • I am so lucky with my church. But this is a great reminder to think from the Bible page and into the World. Jesus the Fool – one of the glorious ways to think of Him, especially as I am a Morris dancer at heart.

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    • thanks so much for sharing, aran. love hearing about your church. it really is encouraging. Jesus is so wild, and much of his church has been domesticated.

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  • This is classic Kathy once again!!! I read this with a certain churning in my stomach because I WAS nurtured and modeled within the system you are talking about. Going to Bible College and Seminary to *be prepared^ to serve as a minister. Crazy thing is. I had been doing *ministry* in the ways you describe Kathy way before ever setting foot in Bible College!!! I lead our adult sunday school at my congrgatio nI attend and sure hope to implement what your sharing here more and more. I think being a change-agent as one withio the system may help bring transformation.

    Loved seeing you last night!!!! Wish I had been able to formulate a question to ask but was filled with enthusiasm and hope from all your shared special friend!!!!

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    • thanks, robert it was great to see you even though so busy in the nuttiness of the night. thanks for coming & reading & being here. i love that you are mixing things up and challenging others in all kinds of ways.

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  • Love it! Isn’t it a little crazy that we spend so much time and energy on “doing” church, when “being” church is so much more effective. I don’t care how many times you go to church on the weekend if you’re a jerk on Monday.Imagine what it would be like if we stopped thinking about what other people saw of our outside, stopped the legalism, stopped the mindless following of tradition, and started truly loving God and loving people all week long. Wouldn’t that be a little bit crazy?

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    • thanks, stacey. amen, sister. i always say we’d rather go to church than be the church.

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  • thank you so much for the comments, i have a nutty day so haven’t been able to respond but will later tonight. just know i value each one.

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  • I love it ! I am Crazy 2 ! or rather after reading your site, I know I am NOT Crazy! This is where Spirit has led me and a group of followers in a small communal Ministry called TransActions of Grace Outreach Ministry! We would rather “Do Something” anything than sit in another pew as “Pew Potatoes!” THANK YOU! for affirming our thoughts and feelings. We love and are following a similar model. Christ-centered; Spirit-led; Outward-focused! No more hierarcial structure; one-way, monologue , passive sermons. Mother’s & sisters in Christ on equal footing with their Fathers & brothers in Christ! Spontaneous, interactive, Christ-Spirit facilitated meetings. Praise the :ord for your couCage and strength to carry out His will as taught by Paul to all 1st century christians and churches. The very model we have moved further and further away form in the last two milleniums! God Bless you!

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  • OK Kathy our church web person posted a link to your blog and I have spent the whole morning avoiding dishes and laundry reading your stuff and links you posted. I hope you’re happy! My wife is out shopping and I’m in big trouble. (How do I say “I’ve on the internet all day.” in her Love Language?) Just ordered “Down We Go”. Our church is trying to find where we belong. The words “bold” and “inclusive” keep coming to me. I’ve added “crazy”. My wife and I are going to Sedona for a conference in July and hope to check out EmDes on your recommendation. I am enthusiastic about that y’all are doing out there. Thanks for the hard work.

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  • Good list…especially like “isn’t it a little crazy that pastors have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to seminaries to somehow become “qualified”?”

    the answer is yes

    to all the above, yes.

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