I have just finished reading a book called “So you don't want to go to church any more” by Jake Colsen. It was recommended to me by a friend and I purchased a copy to read on the train on my way to and from work. I am not going to relate the story but it is a novel about understanding what Christianity is. Jake Colsen is a pseudonym for the two authors.
I find each chapter quite challenging so it is nice to sit back and reflect on what I have read. The big question is about the nature of Christianity and what God is seeking from those who believe. One of the issues raised is the question of whether religion is about the implementation of ethical standards or developing a relationship with the loving God.
The difficulty with seeing it as an ethical standard is that if people don't live up to the standard then they are judged and discarded. There is also the issue of where people gain the strength to live up to some of the exacting standards expected of them. Enforcing an ethical standard is difficult. Finding a balance between judging people and encouraging them within the ethical framework becomes a major issue.
Contrast this with developing a relationship with the loving God. If you are interested in building a relationship then you will overlook some of the behavioural issues. The authors clearly present the idea that God wants relationship and not rule following. They would contend that as we grow in relationship with him, we will find ourselves changing to take on more of his characteristics.
For me, the book carries a secondary message and that is communicating our vision and dreams to others. In the story, Jake is encouraged in his walk by a person called John. John never tells Jake what to do but he seems to always have the right questions to ask and thought provoking challenges to Jake's thinking. Those challenges and questions are always given when Jake is ready to accept them. How often have you been battered by someone who simply believes that you should simply accept all that they say. Their one desire is to have you do what they want. No doubt John believed that there would be a certain outcome to this journey but he also knew that the journey had to be taken at a pace that Jake could handle.
I recommend reading this book although you may not like some of the views expressed especially if you believe that church is an institution.
Jake Colsen (2006)