This may be my favorite piece I have written in the last three years. It is not particularly well written and it is kind of shortish. But it is my favorite because the insights have so totally revolutionized the way I do life and church.
How I Stopped Hating Church
Don Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz peaked near the middle with a sneakily profound chapter called “Confessional,” which reduced me to tears in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. He followed this with a chapter called “How I Stopped Hating Church.” I was practically giddy. Enjoying Christians is something I have struggled with for some time and Miller had proved himself an insightful guy and able story teller. Unfortunately, the chapter sucked. He stopped hating church by finding an Emerging church made up of a bunch of people like him.
So I’ll give Don a mulligan on that and try to take up the topic myself. My unfinished pilgrimage to the place of no longer hating church started about nine years ago. We moved from Madison to Buffalo. When in Madison we attended Blackhawk Evangelical Free Church, a fantastic, evangelical, Midwestern (read white) church in a college town. But I was beginning to feel the postmodern angst that has plagued evangelical X’ers across the movement. We were looking for something ‘real’ and decided we’d find it in a small, predominately African American church on the edge of the Buffalo’s east side. It was gritty. It was hard. It was beautiful. We were very conscious of our place as cultural learners and when something happened that we thought was strange we were more likely to think we just didn’t understand. We embraced the experience as stepping into the worship life of another culture and being willing to receive from that culture.
Then we moved to California. We were tired. Running a ghetto youth ministry had been hard on us and hard on our marriage. We ended up at a large, affluent, white, boomer church in a college suburb that was everything Refreshing Springs wasn’t. And it didn’t take long for me to get angsty. The worship and life of the church just didn’t seem transcendent. I was again, looking for something ‘real’.
But then it occurred to me, the black church was not more real or transcendent, but we embraced it as the particular worship of a cultural group that we could learn from. The suburban white church was similarly, the particular worship of a specific cultural group that (gasp) I might actually be able to learn from.
I decide to embrace our new worship service as the particular expression of faith in a unique cultural group, suburban, middle age, yuppies. I no longer expect them to bear the weight of ‘authentic’ ‘real’ or ‘biblical’ worship. I simply enter into suburban yuppie worship as if I was it was some strange foreign culture that I was trying to understand. I sing the Michael Boltonesque prom songs to God in solidarity with these strange people. I clap woodenly on the beat as if it was as foreign to me as the syncopation of Refreshing Springs was the first time I went. Churches made of people can only be expected to reflect a glimmer of the glories of God and are each particular expressions of the work of the gospel in a unique culture. I have chosen to embrace the worship practices of this odd people I find so foreign for this season. That is how I stopped hating church.
 It was definitely the funniest. Though, you would not get the jokes by listening to the MP3. They were mostly visual gags. A couple nights later, I was watching the Daily Show and realized that my propensity for sprinkling my talk with visual gags that I don’t explicitly acknowledge except for pausing for response (and maybe a deconstructing follow up joke) is directly influenced by Stewart.
 In his book Now I Can Die in Peace Bill Simmons republished his outstanding columns from the Red Sox first title run. To get those of us who read them in real time to buy the book, he added copious footnotes and backward looking reflections. I have kind of done the same thing here. The text is a historical artifact. The footnotes are contemporary reflection.
 When we were younger, we expected ‘real’ to be ‘uniquely transcendent.’ But I have come to believe that ‘spiritual reality’ can only be ‘culturally particular.’ We are just less likely to recognize this in the culture we grew up in, since, for most of our early life, we though this culture WAS transcendent...and have trouble subsequently embracing it as particular.
 I generally think ecclesiology is almost entirely arbitrary. Apart from some guidelines on leadership structures (e.g. leadership must be done in community) there is very little ‘how to’ instructions for church in the Scriptures. I actually think this intentional. The scriptures prescribe freedom. Worship is a fundamentally cultural response to the transcendent creator. So, Ed Stezer says, ‘God is reaching Korea with the mega-church and China with the house church.’ Anyone who tries to prescribe THE model for church probably needs to study Acts again…or grow up.
 Ref: Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformissional Pastor