I love a rummage sale. Recently the Baptist and Methodist churches in Jacksonville collected massive piles of trash and treasure for sale to benefit missions. In the church of my youth, such events were prohibited because of that story about King David where someone offers to provide him a free offering to sacrifice to God. David refuses with the explanation that "I will not give to God that which cost me nothing." My church interpreted this to mean that fund raisers were not to be used for anything that would be given to the church. I accepted this without question at the time, although anyone who has witnessed how much time and effort the church ladies put into organizing all that junk knows that it definitely costs something to pull it off. It stresses me out just to see folks delivering the boxes of stuff they don't want, yet somehow it gets whipped into shape and people show up with money. Who says there are no miracles in church any more?
Besides poking around in other people's discards, I've been reading books about church rummage of a different sort --- Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted
and Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis
with a little Phyllis Tickle thrown in for lagniappe. All of them examine the general state of dissatisfaction that many Americans are experiencing with organized religion. The idea is that churches have gotten so lost in the rummage of programs and requirements that Jesus wouldn't recognize his own bride. Hatmaker and Bell addressed the problem by starting their own churches and Tickle is a spokesperson for the Emergent Church movement (or heresy depending on your point of view). No one has ever thought that there could be a perfect local church (except that one in Atlanta near Turner Field), but this is more than a general gee whiz we can do better trend. Lots of new churches are nondenominational and even the ones who aren't are trying to look that way. It's now very common for Baptist churches to leave "Baptist" off when the church is named. Churches are trying to figure out what it means to be relevant. How much change can the church endure and still be Christian? It will be interesting to see if the changes draw people in or push them further away.