We’ve had an exciting year, meeting as writers and exploring God’s Word and engaging with fellow believers in many discussions. Something we often see is Christians who agree with much of what we’re saying, but don’t consider themselves “rogues”. We want you to know – that’s okay!
When we say “rogue”, what do we mean anyway?
I’m a park ranger at a zoo. And “rogue” means “an elephant driven away or living apart from the herd.” From the herd’s perspective, they have “savage and destructive tendencies.” But sometimes a herd is unhealthy or exclusive – it’s only by leaving that rogues can provide for their future.
Savage and Destructive?
Rogues have played a critical role in our faith, providing for a future when the present grows stale. The Catholic Church considered Martin Luther a rogue. And Temple Judaism considered Jesus a rogue. Martin and Jesus were right, though. The institution was wrong at those times and needed reform desperately. Martin Luther not only launched Protestantism, but also forced the Catholic Church to enter a reformation of its own. Jesus launched Christianity as a reform movement and since the Temple wouldn’t reform, it fell.
Rogues are needed every now and then, even if the institution considers them savage and destructive for the way they force the hand of the powerful and corrupt to reform.
Driven Away and Living Apart
Looking around modern American churches, we see a lot of people being driven out, made to feel unwelcome. We also see a lot of people deciding to live apart from church by choice – conscientious objectors who walk out of big box churches to practice faith in the rogue.
When we say “a lot” – we mean millions. Polls constantly show increasing numbers, particularly among young adults, going rogue. They keep their faith but skip on business church membership, attendance, and commitment.
But like we say, the increasing number of Christian rogues isn’t a bad thing.
After all, Jesus was a rogue and had a heart for those outcast by established religion. Rogues have the heart of our founder, our Father. This is the Jesus with twelve-man brute squad who walked in the Temple and started flipping tables, after all. Rogue.
The Heart of Our Founder
Jesus didn’t going rogue from God or faith. He went rogue from the established, institutional religious construct of his time, one that kept people from God. They kept God’s people stuck in systematic practices that propped up the institution but didn’t bring them closer to God.
And that’s who Jesus had a heart for – people the institution blocked out. All those told they weren’t welcome, those labeled “unclean.” All those told to get right with God before coming to church.
As rogues, many of us left institutional models of Christianity to pursue community in closer ways – such as meeting in house churches and practicing ministry in our workplace. We retain that same awesome passion that Christ had of looking for and providing for the outcasts around us.
And we find that being outside institutional faith actually makes us more effective in ministry and testimony. There are millions who wouldn’t “be found dead in a church” – we’re the only ones who can reach them.
A Beautiful Truth
Still, I have a confession to make. I’m only 99% rogue.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, and you probably can’t either. Because being “anti-church” is pretty much my thing, right? But here you have it:
I believe that attending an institutional business church can be a healthy part of a spiritual diet.
Look at that.
Apparently you can say such things and not get struck by lightning. Early Christians (300 years of them) didn’t meet in churches like we think of them today. But that doesn’t make it morally wrong and it doesn’t make them useless.
“I grew up in an institutional church, and I turned out all right.” That’s the story of most of us – those within institutional models and us rogues outside. Many of us grew up in church businesses and they were an important part of our spiritual foundation. Not a vital part, by any means. There’s other ways, many other ways, God uses to bring people to spiritual maturity. But they were useful.
There’s a lot to criticize about institutional churches these days. Just like Jesus and his apostles had no shortage of insults (pit of vipers, anyone? den of thieves?) and criticisms against the way pastors had institutionalized Jewish faith in their time.
They launched a movement that hoped to address some of those concerns, and it has done well at different times in history and has a lot of built in correctives to reform periodically as well.
But I want to remind myself and our readers, that God doesn’t let things continue when they fail to bear fruit. And institutional churches, despite all the failings, have born a lot of fruit.
Not down with “going rogue” yourself? That’s okay. Not everyone needs to. Churches need people, to reform from within. Churches are good for people sometimes, as well. I’d venture to guess more than half the people following our blog still attend churches – and it’s a healthy part of their family’s spiritual growth. Because God is in business churches. Just like he’s everywhere two or more gather in his name.
Our hope is that anyone who reads our blog will be challenged and grow from it, even if they don’t ascribe to every idea we have or every suggestion we make. Many stick with going to church on Sundays, and God can be found there. Not only that, but you can be God’s hands and feet there.
With millions going rogue, perhaps we can encourage them to stay in the faith and grow in the faith, even outside the institution. And with millions going rogue, perhaps we can encourage those within the church to grow in empathy and understanding while committing to much needed reform.
And here’s hoping – that the more we learn about each other, the better we strive to be, the harder we seek His face – the better our chances of bringing Rogues and churches back together in the future.