“Mind if I ask you a question?”  Alan inquired.

You can ask. I don’t guarantee answers. Fire away.

“What’s your ‘take’ on the church? What’s it got to do with anything? Where does it fit into my life as a follower of Jesus? As a disciple?”

In five words, or less? Like, first of all: where does that question come from, and what’s behind it? It’s a loaded question, you know.

“Before I get into that I’d like to know. Just off the top of your head, how you perceive of the church. I’m totally confused, and get more so the more I try to find a place for it in my commitment to be a follower of Jesus.”

OK. But when you ask that, you’ve got to begin by sorting out the distinction between your own personal experiences of the church, then all of those other expressions of the church in the past and present, and then, finally, discern whatever it is that is the essence of the church in the mind and mission of God.

That can become pretty complicated.

“Maybe so, but let’s start with your own experience of the church. How would you describe it to me? Because frankly, I’m pretty confused, maybe even bummed by it all.”

(I had to laugh) OK. Try on some descriptions like: enigmatic, enchanted, confusing, mysterious, awesome, contradictory, uncontrollable, clandestine, impossible, laughable, and unpredictable—just for starts. These descriptions come to mind. All of the above. Are you still with me?

“Sheesh! Where did you ever come up with a list like that? Especially the ‘enchanted’ bit? Where’d that one come from? That has to do with something, like, magic. That’s about the last thing I would never connect with any church I ever encountered. Are you serious?


Alan is twenty-two, blonde, pony-tailed, bespectacled, and a graduate student in bioengineering. His exceptional intellect is obvious. His questioning is relentless. His insatiable spiritual appetite is often in conflict with his brutal honesty (which is not always well-received in “comfort-zone” Christian communities). I found him to be a gift of God to me. He provoked me to climb out of my own jaded acceptance of the normal ecclesiastical ruts, which I had come to accept. He also made me stretch into his generational culture, which is so radically other than mine. We had originally met on several occasions after worship with the large congregation which I attended and which he attended, occasionally, on his search. These questions came up when we met by accident in a coffee shop. He was a winsome guy. I came to love him.


This was the beginning of an intense conversation between us, which lasted for many months and which became the book: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH (Wipf and Stock, 2006), and is, obviously, the source of the name given to this Blog-site.

I invite you to tune-in. It was a fascinating journey.

(To be continued.)


About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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