Between a Hard Rock and a Place.

October 15, 2008

The Most Unsuccessful Church In The World

Filed under: Church,Uncategorized — camharris @ 12:11 am

Preface:  I know it is quite popular to talk about church at the moment.  But I think it is important, so please forgive me if you are over it.  I am much happier just to get on with it rather than critique it, but I can’t sleep at the moment and Letterman is over.


Tonight is Tuesday night, and it is ‘church’ night for me.  Each Tuesday night I walk to a corner pub to talk with others about life, belief, struggles and triumphs (not the motorbikes, necessarily).  I have been thinking it for a while, but I believe it is the most unsuccessful church in the world, or at least one of the many ‘most unsuccessful churches in the world’.

It has only been running for maybe six weeks and no two weeks are the same.  I never really know who is going to turn up, or if I will look like the village drunk who drinks with or without company.  Now I am not meeting at the pub because it is a cool thing to do, or because it is in vogue for churches to be doing something different.  I am fascinated by meeting places that work, and the corner pub is one of those places.  It could be a café, bookshop, park or beach.  These places have some dynamics going on that I may write about separately, but for me in my locale, this particular pub will do.

So why are we unsuccessful?  Well, I think a lot of it has to do with how we look, how we function, how we market ourselves, and how we structure the evening.  Beginning with looks, I know it is an unlikely scenario, but imagine a small group of people sitting around a table on bar stools, talking.  I know – whacky.  For the newcomer, it may seem strange that we are not standing up, facing one direction and clapping in time to music.

When it comes to function, we are not doing too well either.  No one leads the group, no one is in a paid position, no one gives the notices or lets us know when to sit down or stand up.  We are all over the place.

Marketing our church has been woeful.  We haven’t put up signs, built a steeple or sent out brochures.  I invite the occasional guest but that has been rare.  Our numbers therefore are really low.  People are not regular, so we can’t really say we have a strong membership.

Structurally, we just engage in talking, and remind each other that Jesus is coming again.

A person once asked me, “But what are you going to replace going to church with?” quite worried about my spiritual well being.  I think I may have said something like a morning sleep or going to the beach, but later I thought some more on this.  I wondered what going to church had actually replaced.

These days, I have just taken to telling people pretty honestly where I am at.  I am not an open book, but I feel like at this stage of my life it is worth taking the risk to talk frankly to people.  I feel like I can do this in these kinds of settings.  There is no pretence, no expectation and no interruptions that will hinder my desire to connect with others who wait in expectation for Jesus to make his next move, or engage with people who believe something completely different.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with all the stereotypical church conventions or norms, but for me, I am gaining so much at the moment from just meeting.  Now of course there are people who go to churches who are relationally amazing, and that is fantastic, as long as they can do their relating between the final song and when the coffee urn is turned off.

So for the time being I am satisfied going to the most unsuccessful church in the world.  A random group of people, meeting honestly to see how we go in this life, waiting expectantly for the return of the king (a concept thought up way before Lord Of The Rings).

Until He comes.



  1. I think that is a good way to do church Cam! Going out and connecting in open spaces – no barriers or expectations.

    Comment by sojourner — October 16, 2008 @ 8:45 am | Reply

  2. Cool….actually I came down to your church a couple of weeks ago but did not see the gathering….that’s ok cos I came down for something else.

    If you’re struggling for a “sermon” you could head upstairs to the Tuesday night comedy. On that particular night one guy started talking about church and how he loved it so much…particularly the tea and biscuits… he rambled on a bit further making us think, “church” was part of his routine to get laughs.

    The reason I was there was to watch a friend do his routine, he was actually very good – he is part of the Australian comedy culture. He commented afterwards how tough it is being a disciple for Jesus in the comedy world when you have so many others poking fun at “church”. I think it’s a good thing he is operating in that culture apparently he has routines to educate on who the real Jesus is.

    Comment by Gav — October 16, 2008 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  3. I dunno Cam – EVERY Tuesday? Sounds kinda locked in… 🙂

    Comment by Toddy — October 23, 2008 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

  4. If I don’t go every Tuesday Toddy, I fear I may forward-slide and get involved with the right crowd.

    Comment by camharris — October 23, 2008 @ 9:11 pm | Reply

  5. So understand where you are at and how you feel about this ‘church-going’.
    I personally find it awesome to just ‘be’ in God’s presence and do life with him, every day, all day. No pretending or being manipulated by anyone in any ‘chuchy’ way….
    It’s quite amazing what happens if we can do that.
    We shall come again on one of those Tuesday nights; it’s good to connect in many different ways.
    Have a fine day, you and your beautiful Libby.

    Comment by Susanna — November 12, 2008 @ 6:22 am | Reply

  6. Told you I’d stalk you…

    Comment by Toddy — November 19, 2008 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Cam,

    Have you read “Exiles” by Mike Frost? Based on what you’ve said here I reckon you’d like it and may resonate with your thinking. It’s all about following Christ in our post-Christendom world. There’s a great story in there about a guy from Brissy who stopped going to church and started water-skiing with mates instead, but in the process started building a community that prays for each other, shares communion, helps the poor and leads others to Christ. And some of his old church friends are wondering when he’s going to come back to church!

    So power on with your pub stuff, and here’s to your continuing lack of success.


    Comment by Dave Marlow — November 28, 2008 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

  8. I’ve read bits and pieces of it Dave, I don’t think I have ever read a book all the way through from front to back, but it definitely had some food for thought in it. Hope everything is going well with the expecting and the expected. Are you going to stop at four? Good number to make up a band, don’t you think?

    Comment by camharris — November 28, 2008 @ 9:55 pm | Reply

  9. Indeed. I was hoping to be the drummer but by the time they’re old enough I’m sure they won’t want their uncool old man in there.

    Definitely stopping at four, I’ve already been given my “instructions” 🙂 What about you, are the little Cams ready for release? (written as tactfully as possible of course…)

    Comment by Dave Marlow — December 11, 2008 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

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