Sunday, February 27, 2005

My Next Church

written by Kent C. Williamson

My next church will not look much like my current one at all, and most likely, not like yours either. It will not look like the mega-church I attended in the suburbs of Chicago, nor the "new" church I visited in Southern California, nor the Presbyterian church I was married in back in San Antonio, nor the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church I loved so much on the Virginia coast, nor the little struggling Baptist Church I joined in upstate Wisconsin, nor the home church a dear friend of mine invited me to in his home state, nor the Bible Church that holds such a dear place in my heart from my youth in El Paso.

No, I imagine it will not look like any of these at all. As a matter of fact it may more closely resemble the non-organized, highly persecuted, low-key, huge impact church in China I recently witnessed first hand than any Main Street, Maple Street, side street, back street, high school gymnasium, or strip mall church that exists today in America.

My next church probably will not have a building (nor a building fund, a building program, or any building aspirations). This will save enormous resources and of course will eliminate any potential arguments over carpet color or pews versus theatre seating, but more so it will mark an enormous shift in ideology. No longer will the church be so inwardly, self-centered in it’s focus. No longer will the church be isolated from the community it claims to serve. No longer will the church be seen as a refuge from the woes and worries of the world… instead by the power of the Holy Spirit we will face them head-on.

My next church will not be about Sundays and Wednesday nights. Imagine if Christ had compartmentalized his life and ministry in the way the church of today does. His example was a 24/7 one, which by the way, is what our current post-modern culture begs for. The church has no set hours. If ministry waits for the doors of the church to open, ministry opportunities will be missed. There will be more living and breathing the Gospel and as a result more impact on the communities in which we live.

My next church will not be about church membership. The goal will not be for more people to walk our aisle, fill our pews, or join our club. The focus will not be on more numbers or others joining us in our sanctuary from the world. Instead it will be about people called by the Spirit of God to join along side one another in action and deed, ministering to a broken people in a critical time. Please do not confuse this with a works-based faith. It is not, but as James points out, a faith without works is dead. And I will add that a self-serving faith, one that is only about our own “spiritual growth” (the trademark of the modern church), is equally as dead.

My next church will not be about "worship services". It will not emphasize corporate worship over life worship. It will not relegate worship to a few minutes of singing jammed in-between announcements and a sermon. It will not negate the power and beauty of corporate worship, but it will focus on an individual’s life as worship. It will enable believers to more fully understand that using our gifts and living our lives is just as much worship as singing can be. Our vocations will become instruments on which we play the hymns of my next church. Whether we are filling prescriptions, fixing mufflers, home-schooling five children, preparing tax forms, or making motion pictures, the attitudes of our hearts will be worshipful, not a worship of ourselves and our talents, but a worship of God for the talents He has given us and the work he performed through his Son on the cross.

My next church will not be about more church programs. Actually it will be the opposite. It will be about less church programs. And in doing less it will do less better. It will not be about more programs for the youth and children’s ministry. It will not be about more adult class options on Sunday nights. It will not be about adding a second, third, contemporary, or alternative service into the mix. The one thing my next church will be intentional about is discipleship. Whether you are 6 or 60 you will be challenged towards becoming a better disciple of Christ.

My next church will not have a denominational title. I’m confidant outsiders will attempt to label it this or that, but in it’s mission and purpose it will be about putting aside labels. It will be about looking at the heart of the individual rather than his pre-given denominational identifier. Will it be void of all doctrine? No, it will be doctrinely sound in regards to the core message of the gospel. But it will discourage argument for arguments sake over the finer points of theology that have divided so many for so long.

My next church will meet in the community. It may gather at a coffee house, a restaurant, or a neighbors yard today, and a playground, a theatre, or a parking lot next time, but the focus will not be on meeting to cloister ourselves from the world. Instead we will meet to spur one another on toward action. And our main action will be, 'loving our neighbor as ourselves.' In lieu of a building, our prayer closets will become our sanctuaries where power will be given to us to enter and engage the world according to God’s purposes.

My next church will actively engage the culture. It will not wait patiently for seekers or the lost to wander through it’s doors. No, instead it will prayerfully seek them. It will not abandon the arts, but instead will actively pursue them, both in creating them and experiencing them. It will attempt to live culturally relevant lives, not to be seen by the world around us hip or in, but in an attempt to become all things to all men so that more may come to know Him.

Finally and probably most importantly, my next church will be about the great commission and the greatest commandments. It will actively pursue making disciples (not merely converts) of all men. It will actively be about loving our neighbor as ourselves. And it will actively attempt to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and strength. The message of my next church will not change, but it’s methods will. And as a result of these actions my next church will need to be more prepared for persecution. Like our brothers and sisters in China, we will need to be prepared for anything and everything that may come our way. But imagine the impact of the church on our culture if the resources spent making “church” happen were instead spent on reaching out to the community.

My next church is not for the faint of heart and it is definitely not for the weak of faith either. It is not for those who sit comfortably in the pews. It is not for those who are content with the way things are, but it is ready for me… or more so, I’m ready for it.


This article originally appeared in the Food For Thought column on the Soul Survivor Website.

Kent C. Williamson is an owner of Paladin Pictures, Inc., a film and video production company dedicated to the production, distribution and promotion of family-friendly, morally strong entertainment and educational media. He lives with his wife and five children along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Please reference My Next Church when sending comments to Kent at

©2004, Paladin Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Editing Rebellion of Thought

We're neck deep in post-production on Rebellion of Thought. I often feel like I'm drowning as we wade through 60 hours of heavy-duty intervew footage in an attempt to cut it down to 90 minutes.

Since this is the first blog about the actual film Rebellion of Thought I'd better fill in a few details. Brad and I started work on this film in February 2001. We've filmed off and on over the last four years gathering interviews with theologians, philosphers. film theorists, thinkers, and folks on the street. We currently hope to have the film wrapped by the end of May... I won't say May 2005... if I just say "May" it keeps our options open.

We're also weaving our own personal story into the film as our lives have drastically changed since we started exploring post-modernism and the role of the church in a post-modern world. If you haven't yet seen the teaser and the open, go check 'em out at the Paladin Pictures website.

So anyhow, back to the drowning... Since we've got most of our paying clients happy for now, Sam Voelkel (our Assistant Editor on this film) and I will be spending many hours trying to find the story amidst the chaos. Meanwhile Matt Uncapher (our DP and Editor) is putting the finishing touches on the color correction of our dramatic feature motion picture When Love Walks In. That film is set to debut at the Bare Bones International Independent Film Fest in April. And of course Brad is missing all the fun... he's drinking nuclear cocktails on some beach somewhere.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Modern Church Lies Comatose in the Postmodern World

written by Kent C. Williamson

"Coma," the Doctor said, "He’s in a coma from which he may or may not recover." It was May 22nd, 1991 when I heard those words in regards to my father. It was May 22nd, 1991 when my life would be permanently changed - in some ways for the worse, in some ways for the better.

When you learn that someone you love has slipped into a coma time seems to swiftly and surely come to a stop. It was three and half weeks in May and June that year which all blend into one lengthy, tiresome trip to and from the hospital. In reality it was filled with up to three trips a day driving across the hot, dusty town of El Paso to and from the intensive care center at Thomason Hospital. It was filled with sadness (and occasional laughter) as my family, brought together by tragedy, grieved. But mostly it was filled with prayer - prayers of a twenty-four year old who desperately hoped that God’s will would align with his will - prayers of a family who had never suffered through anything so tragic - prayers of literally hundreds, even thousands of the faithful scattered across the country and around the globe lifting up a brother in the faith.

It was a tragic time, but it was a wonderful time. It was a time that looks and feels awfully familiar in a strange and bizarre way as I stare at the Church in 2004 - a modern Church lying comatose in this post-modern world.

The comparisons between my father’s coma and that of the Church are striking and eerie. They begin with the fact that the patient never knows he is in a coma. As strange as it may seem, it is true. Although the world continues to spin with the best medical staff available, the best treatments available, the best waiting room, decent cafeteria food, a newly paved parking lot, fine shopping, cars filling up highways, baseball games and cable television - the patient lies oblivious to it all. Three and a half minutes or three and half weeks, time means nothing to the comatose. They simply don’t realize that they are in a state of coma.

The second similarity is life-support. In the case of my father his coma required a ventilator. An outside object designed to breath for him - to keep his blood circulating - to keep his vital organs working when his body could not do it on its own. In the Church’s case this role is lovingly and caringly filled by the Holy Spirit. A job He willingly does regardless of whether the Body is in or out of coma. The difference being that out of a coma His breath gives life and life more abundant, while in a coma His breath merely sustains life.

Another similarity is that people check on the coma victim on a regular basis. Whether it is three visits a day or merely on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights there are those that check on the victim regularly, seeking any signs of improvement. Have they wiggled a foot, did they open their eyes, anything? Or did they just lie there since I saw them last? The only movement being the slow rise and fall of their chest forced by the ventilator and the inching of the blood through the veins - an impossible act without the life-support system.

The doctor told my mother and I that my father may be able to hear things, but just not be able respond to them. So our family talked to him, we told of our love for him, we prayed with him, we held his hand, and we even played music through headphones for him. We patiently tried to make it known that we cared, whether he knew it or not. We had to believe that he could hear us and that our words and actions mattered even though he could not tell us that they did. It was an act on our part out of love for him that in reality may have only helped us to keep our sanity in our hour of crisis. Shaking the church will not cause it to leap forth from the coma. But neither will our silence. We must trust that our words and actions will be heard and felt and that somehow they will make a difference.

I will never forget the day after three and half weeks when my father opened his eyes. I remember asking him where the clock was and watching as his eyes slowly moved across the room and landed on the ticking numbered circle, which hung on the wall behind me. It was an unbelievable sign of communication that filled my world with renewed hope.

Another noteworthy point which I am confidant will be true in the case of the Church is that when (not if), but when the Church awakes from its coma it will never be the same. The reason a coma occurs is that the body shuts itself down in attempt to keep itself alive. This state is often caused by traumatic injury, the effects of which can be life-long. In my fathers case it was a brain-injury that affected his personality and short-term memory skills. In the case of the Church we will have to wait and see the change when it awakes. When it realizes that the world has changed around it, and that the modern world it was comfortable in has ceased to exist. One thing is certain - the message of the Church will not change, but it’s methods will.

Now at 36 I find myself again praying for a coma victim, but this time the stakes are higher than just one man’s life. And again I catch myself secretly hoping that God’s will would align itself with my will - something I don’t think He is too fond of.

In the mean time, I can only patiently and prayerfully wait for the eyes of the Church to open and move slowly across the room to the ticking clock hanging on the wall.


This article originally appeared in the Food For Thought column on the Soul Survivor Website.

Kent C. Williamson is an owner of Paladin Pictures, Inc., a film and video production company dedicated to the production, distribution and promotion of family-friendly, morally strong entertainment and educational media. He lives with his wife and five children along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Please reference The Comatose Church when sending comments to Kent at

©2004 Paladin Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Dreaming of Tornadoes

This morning I dreamt I was walking through a very narrow airport hanger with a high sheet metal ceiling and tall, thin, truss supports. The sides were mostly open and as I walked along with your typical airport crowd I sensed danger around me. As I looked through the open walls I noticed several tornadoes surrounding the building.

Some were white and some were dark grey and they all danced around the airport spreading panic amidst the patrons. I ran and grabbed ahold of a truss and ducked down in an attempt to hide. Clinging for my life, I painfully watched as others were literally sucked out, vacuumed out of the building by a force far stronger than man.

It was then that I awoke. Immediately, and I mean instantly upon waking, the thought raced through my mind that the Airport Hanger is the Church and the Tornadoes are the Holy Spirit pulling people out of the protection and safety they find there and into their place of ministry in the community.

Seeing the dream in this light I have only one question of myself... why did I cling so tight to the structure of the Church?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Anchored in the Harbor 2

Last night I watched the footage from my Spring Hill speaking engagement with my parents. They were both impressed, but who's parents wouldn't be of their son in that role.

My mother thought it was a little too much like a performance... a little too dramatic, but at the same time she felt the content was dead on.

After we filmed the three "performances" last week my shooter, Matt Uncapher, and I went to lunch at the local Mexi joint. As we devoured the chips and salsa we discussed the events of the morning. His viewpoints are distorted by the viewfinder (as most cameramen will attest) and my viewpoints are more grossly distorted by simply being too close to the topic, so the jury is still out in regards to how the message was delivered and taken.

The pastor of the church emailed me two days ago and said it "went VERY WELL." Hopefully it won't end there, but this will just be the beginning for a few select folks to start living their faith outside the walls of the traditional institutional church.

Back to the chips and salsa... I told Matt that I don't know how a pastor can give three audiences the same sermon without it becoming a "performance." With my presentation I would polish it between services and try to improve upon it each time. I would imagine that pastors would do the exact same thing.

We filmed it, hoping that some of the footage will make it's way into the Rebellion of Thought film. We shot all three services from different angles and we hope to be able to cut it all together into one. I guess that explains the "performance" thing. Anyway, I think the piece as a whole will probably find it's way into the Special Features section of the DVD.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Anchored in the Harbor - Kent Speaking at Spring Hill

This past Sunday I spoke at three services at Spring Hill Baptist Church in Ruckersville, VA (outside of Charlottesville). This church has a pretty good pulse on the community around it. Their pastor has a vision to reach out beyond the walls of the church. He asked me to speak on my experience moving from the pew into the passion.

Here are my notes...


STORY: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Henri the painter and boat builder.

“The boat was sculptured rather than built. It was thirty-five feet long and its lines were in a constant state of flux. For a while it had a clipper bow and a fantail like a destroyer. Another time it had looked vaguely like a caravel. Since Henri had no money, it sometimes took months to find a plank or a piece of iron or a dozen brass screws. That was the way he wanted it, for Henri never wanted to finish his boat”

The reason is given elsewhere in the book: A man named Hazel says to the main character Doc: “(Henri’s) been building that boat for seven years that I know of… Every time he gets it nearly finished he changes it and starts over again. I think he’s nuts. Seven years on a boat.”

And Doc gently replies: “You don’t understand. Henri loves boats but he’s afraid of the ocean.”


Kent loves the Church, but he’s afraid of the world!

GIMME one more discipleship class, THEN I’ll live my faith out in the world…
GIMME one more book of the NT, THEN I’ll go visit with my unsaved friend…
GIMME one more sermon… THEN I’ll…
GIMME one more worship experience… THEN I’ll…
GIMME one more act of service toward the church… THEN I’ll…


The BEST things God has for us come from obeying the two greatest commandments…
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
And love your neighbor as yourself.”

If they only would have been written:
“Love your church with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
And love yourself more than others.”

But I realized I WAS FAILING at the two greatest commandments

There are 2 kinds of ministry:

1. Ministry to the Body… worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, child care workers, etc. – This is what I was really good at!
2. Ministry to the World… that’s what I failed at doing (and what I believe the Church as a whole is rather weak at doing)

I had anchored myself in the Harbor… I had anchored myself in the Church (Deacon, Adult SS Teacher, Committee Member, Child-Care Worker, Kitchen Clean-Up Crew, etc. etc.). I had anchored myself in the Church and by doing so I didn’t have time for the second greatest commandment… to love my neighbor as myself.

CHINA – The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my own problem of being anchored in the Harbor.

The Church in China:
Handful I saw are baptizing new believers every 36 hours…
one of the differences I saw… NO HARBOR

From my China experience the Spirit told me give it all up… .(Deacon, Adult SS Teacher, Committee Member, Child-Care Worker, Kitchen Clean-Up Crew, etc. etc.). And He revealed to me that the door to ministering to world is the exit door of the church.

So where do I find myself now…
7 months to resign my duties
Getting our bearing
Learning what it means to live as missionaries to our own culture
Learning the language of our post-modern culture
Email me

Look around you… this is your Harbor.

The seas of the world are rough, and Christ (as he’s been described time and again) is the Lighthouse… his light guided us safely into the harbor. But it wasn’t for the purpose of us dropping our anchors.

Harbors do have a purpose…
to refuel
to restock supplies
to get a new coat of paint
to get repairs.

Harbors are safe places for boats, but boats are made to sail… If we anchor ourselves in the Harbor we do the Boatmaker a disservice.

God is not like Henri in Cannery Row… He doesn’t build boats to never have them sail.

It’s the same Lighthouse that drew us here that now shows us the way back into the stormy seas of the world around us.