We created this page for folks who don’t know about our community.
It’s a safe way to check us out before you come. We also created it for those who have visited, found us to be pretty non-traditional, and come here to try and figure us out. It’s the story of how we got to be the way we are. It’s a history, so it’s the longest page on the site, but it is probably the most helpful as well.
It is no secret that the Christian Church has seen better days. We’ve been in decline for at least 50 years—decline in numbers, decline in character, decline in reputation. The word “Christian” used to mean something good. Today it is associated with more negative things than positive things …
- Intolerance, hypocrisy, hatred, ignorance
- Exploiting adults for money and children for sex
- Antagonism toward science, women, and LGBT people
- And a whole lot more.
When we founded NRCC in 1995, many of us were deeply disillusioned with Christian culture. It was clear to us that the Church had lost its moral authority (for good reason). We Christians have behaved badly and have earned every bit of our negative reputation.
But this is not the first generation of Christians to have lost its way. When we talk about the history of our tradition, we have a saying in our community. “It is our way, to lose our way. But it is also our way to find it again when we do.”
Historically, when we have lost our way, when we have found ourselves behaving badly, we’ve tended to try and solve our problem one of two ways. First, we look to our culture’s values for solutions. Second, we withdraw, we quiet ourselves, we regroup, and we listen to the quiet Inner Voice.
Many churches today are trying to work option #1. American culture tends to solve problems with can-do, best-practice, meet-consumer-need solutions. That’s how many churches are trying to become relevant again. We organize ourselves like businesses. We think of ourselves as service providers for spiritual consumers. And like every other service provider in town, we create products and programs to meet the needs and desires of our target markets, and then compete to sell ours better than the church down the street.
Which would be fine … if it was working for us.
But it’s really not.
A handful of churches today are working option #2. We are trying to quiet and humble ourselves and asking ourselves uncomfortable questions about how we got things so wrong. Withdrawing this way is such a well-worn path, our tradition has a name for it. We call it the way of the wilderness. We are either forced out, or we opt out, of power. Privilege and prestige are either taken from us, or we willingly surrender it. We withdraw to the wilderness, where we hammer out a new, truer, and more authentic spirituality.
In the story we tell about our community, our community chose the latter.
1995 – 2006
When we first gathered together in 1995, we were a handful of people seeking a more authentic spiritual journey. Most of us had been deeply involved in church—some deacons, some elders, even a few former ministers. Almost all of us had been chewed up and spit out by the empire-building, consumer-driven, culture-conforming approach to church.
We were a lost bunch. We didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t build a church, because we had rejected church. We had no idea how to form spiritual community. We only knew that there were things we would never do—churchy things. So we puzzled over how to be spiritual and how to be a community, without becoming the churchy kind of place that had so wounded us.
We were disoriented. We couldn’t trust our own instincts.
So for a long time all we did was gather and become friends. For about a decade we licked our wounds and grieved our losses. We offered one another comfort in our loss and companionship in our confusion.
We kept asking ourselves hard questions about what it means to be Christian and if we even wanted to be. We asked ourselves what church meant and if we wanted any part of it. We questioned our most basic religious instincts. Why do people pray? Should we? Why do people sing? Should we? Should we gather on Sundays? Why do we sit in rows and listen to a talking head?
And for a long time we had many questions and few answers.
It was a bewildering time.
It was a dismantling time.
We took comfort in the ancient wisdom that there is a time to tear down, and a time to build up. We were pretty invested in the tearing down part.
Many of us were challenging our most basic assumptions about God and the whole Christian story. We had to grant ourselves permission to doubt and wonder and question even our most cherished beliefs and traditions. We couldn’t really do anything else. Our religion was falling apart anyway.
So the decade from 1995 to 2006 was about rediscovering, reflecting, and re-imagining church. We did very little outwardly. We had very few programs, did very little to care for our city. We were too spiritually spent.
But in that decade we did stumble onto a vein of Christian belief and practice that gave us a much broader understanding of what Christian and church mean. We found a body of ancient experience that brought life and light to our souls.
- We learned the beauty of quieted, simplified lives.
- We learned the ancient Christian practice of meditation.
- We learned not to settle for secondhand, institutional religion.
- We learned to contend for firsthand spiritual encounter.
- We learned to listen carefully for the interior whispers of the Divine Spirit.
- We learned how imperative community and spiritual friendship are.
- And we learned that we do better on the spiritual journey together than we do alone.
By the end of the decade we were experiencing a freer spirituality. We were feeling free of sectarian oughts and shoulds. There in exile, we relearned the ancient paths of our faith. Our souls began to heal. Our perceptions of God and our experience of the Divine Life was deepened.
We felt very alone for many of those years, but were deeply encouraged to discover along the way, that many other Christian communities had been rediscovering the same things we were.
We would have stayed quietly in seclusion, discovering, learning, and savoring being a spiritual community together, except that in 2007 two things happened.
First, our minister began to speak overtly about what we were learning. He spoke about how the Christian church was undergoing a new Reformation, and encouraged us to throw in our lot with the emergent church. He kept talking about how, five hundred years ago, the last Reformation was an update of Christian belief and practice to reflect their new worldview, but that their new worldview, had become our outmoded one. The new Reformation, he said, was the Church doing its own update, to reflect a newer, new worldview—the quantum worldview, he called it.
So we began to drop traditional language. We began to drop traditional rituals. We began to try and tell the Christian story and be a Christian community with forms and practices that held meaning in the new worldview.
The bad news: when we did that, forty percent of the community left.
The good news: sixty percent stayed.
2007 was a hard year for us.
The second thing that happened in 2007 was an inner restlessness about how isolated and alone we were. It began as a rising compassion for people in our city. We knew that something very wonderful was happening among us but began to feel like we were hiding our light where nobody could find it. We knew there were many others in our city who were either stuck in toxic religion or wandering alone without spiritual community.
So for many months in late 2007 and early 2008, our community talked together about opening our hearts and doors to others in our city. We’d talk about it, and then we’d get afraid and back off. The restlessness would kick back in. And we’d talk again. This back-and-forth went on for a long time.
We were afraid that if we grew, we would lose something precious. Bigger numbers had always been a driving force in the churches we came from. We’d been down that road and were afraid to go again.
But after a while we couldn’t shake the restlessness and compassion. It began to feel like Divine nudging to come out of seclusion.
Our minister started the whole thing. He kept talking about his own internal nudge. “There are people in our city,” he would tell us, “who are on the same journey we are. But they’re alone.” He’d talk about inviting them to travel with us.
But it was hard for us to hear. We’d been on the doing-good-stuff-in-church rat wheel. We had tried helping people and the whole reach-out-to-others thing. But we were burned. All our efforts had done was suck us into a vortex of exhausting religious performance. We were burned out!
So thank you, Reverend Man … No.
So he’d back off for a while. But then he’d come back. “There are people in our city,” he’d repeat, “that are on the same journey we are. Let’s invite them to travel with us.” Nothing if not persistent.
So we’d consider it again. But we’d come up with other reasons not to invite others. Our facility wasn’t finished. We didn’t have coffee in the lobby. We were barely getting the bathrooms clean. We were still too burned out to seriously consider opening our hearts and doors. It sounded exhausting! We were afraid we’d lose our souls if we got back on the work-for-church treadmill.
But he kept coming back.
He was nice about it. But he kept nudging. And cajoling. And backing off. And coming back.
Until finally our hearts began to soften.
If it had been words we were speaking to God, (it wasn’t, but if it had been), they would have been …
“Ok, God. Whatever you ask, we will do. Wherever you send, we will go.”
And so, we began to figure out how a community emerges from isolation. We began to talk about opening our hearts and reengaging with our city. Once we overcame our fears, the vision of opening our hearts and doors became kind of exciting.
In late 2008 we began to tidy up our facility. We put in a parking lot (it had been a swamp). Our building was always simple, but we worked to make it presentable. We also began to write down the things we had experienced so we could tell our story. We redesigned our website to help people figure out if our community was a fit for them.
We worked hard to figure out how to include you in our community.
And now, you’re here. Now, you’re reading this.
And now, we are inviting you to share the spiritual journey with us.
If you are a church-leaver or a non-practicing Christian …
If you find yourself becoming more spiritual, but less religious …
If you are weary of empty religious forms, but hungry for authentic spirituality …
… we’d like to invite you to walk this journey with us.
2012 – Present
In 2012, our minister wrote a book about the things we learned together our first decade. Until that time we had been part of a pretty traditional denomination. He wrote the book to help traditional Christians find a way out of this pickle we were in.
Surprisingly, our traditional denomination didn’t appreciate his help.
They invited him to leave.
When that happened, our community decided to leave as well. It was a difficult decision because the denomination owned our building. We were orphaned and homeless.
As we were wondering if our community would survive, some very kind people from Temple Baptist Church heard about our dilemma and invited us to share space with them. They have a large campus and invited us to use the chapel and children’s wing at the back of their property. Sharing space is a beautiful concept. It meets our space needs, keeps us out of debt, and reduces our environmental footprint. We like that.
And now we are relocated. Now we have moved. And as we write this update, our hearts are healing, our future is secure, and our anticipation for the future is growing.
So again …
If traditional church has stopped working for you …
If you are spiritual, but can’t abide organized religion …
If you find yourself alone on the spiritual journey and would like to share the journey with others …
Come see if we would be a fit for you.