If you’ve ever felt CHURCH hasn’t lived up to all the hype, check THIS out. You’re not alone.

I read this Catalyst article (by Francis Chan) Thursday, and have been stewing on it since. Late afternoon I spent some time with a friend and we stewed together, out loud. Not a negative, complaining conversation, but a how-do-we-do-something-different dialogue. I’m a fan of church. It’s been part of my fabric since I was a baby. And I love all the potential good a church can accomplish. The problem is, however, the church  (including me) hasn’t always lived up to this potential. Over the past couple years, this fact has been a source of disappointment (READ: soul-crushing frustration).

My experience in Africa this past summer redefined “church” for me. No longer do I think church has to happen with a pulpit in a building on a certain day of the week with a prescribed order of service. Church is a connection of people in pursuit of God (period). I saw this happen while talking faith and playing Crazy Eights on a pickle bucket in a squatter camp with people so hungry for hope I could taste it. One of the most beautiful church experiences of my life.

For those who follow me on twitter, you know that my friend, Laura, broke her back in a snowboarding accident a month ago. She’ll recover, and is doing great, considering. But it’ll be a while until she’s in full form. So for a week she moved into my house, during which time we talked non-stop, laughed till we cried and wrestled with faith and life issues late into the night. I am jazzed, stretched, and refueled by sharing this chunk of life with her. THIS has been church for me.

Both these interactions left me wondering if we’ve made the mistake of thinking “church” needs to fit a formula to be valid. In the process, we’ve made it entirely too complicated. So many programs, so many accessories. Entertaining? Yes. Life changing? Not always. Thus the reason an ex-gang member abandons the Sunday morning parade (and it’s killer music and light show) in pursuit of something to nourish his soul. Have we let the bling eclipse the mission? The possibility scares me. And leaves me hungry to do something different.

So whadaya think? Should the church be more like a gang?