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Bradley Hilderbrand

Dear Duane-

A mutual friend recommended I read your entry and comment on it. I am hesitant to do so, because I am firmly of the conviction that you should never get into an argument/discussion with anyone that you can't take to lunch. After all, WHO has ever changed their mind on things after an online debate?

In addition, you may not even be LOOKING for people to comment on your blog. "What I have written, I have written" is an understandable attitude to have, and many times it is appropriate due to a person's situation in life.

So, before I begin any kind of dialogue with you I will simply ask: Are you willing to have a conversation about this? I can promise two things: #1, the tone from me will always remain respectful and courteous (as all dialogue should be, IMHO), and #2, it will probably be rather lengthy.

I await your response,

Duane Cottrell

Hi Brad,
Thanks for your thoughtfulness in asking about commenting. I guess my initial reaction is that I am not interested in a debate or argument. This post was written 7 years ago and is a reflection of what I felt at that time. I am fully aware that there were a great many people who disagreed with me then, and just as many who disagree with me now, and most conversations with those people are simply not fruitful. However, I *have* had lunch with our mutual friend and enjoyed our conversation very much.

So I'll ask you, other than the fact that you were asked to do so, why are you interested in a public conversation with a stranger?

Bo Shirah

Duane, I had anticipated to comment on your blog by now. One of the things I had planned to do was introduce you and Brad. Let me clarify something very quickly as I know miscommunication can easily happen in the written context especially when two parties don't know each other at all. When I read your blog Duane, I noticed not only similar themes but a similar tone of voice that Brad and I have used throughout the years. We've had countless conversations about "churchianity", Christianity, being a follower of Christ, worship, using scripture out of context, modern vs. postmodern, emerging, orthodox, fundamentalists, Evangelicals, etc.... Brad's use of the words argument/discussion/debate were by no means a warning that he was about to cast stones or attack your thoughts and ideas. For example though Brad is immeasurably more well versed than me in biblical knowledge and theology, he has never made me feel inadequate or naive. Brad has always been judicial, diplomatic, and innocuous in his share of ideas. The only people who have had problems are those who have been offended by the ideas themselves, and that was most likely his motivation in sending his introductory message. One small example I can recall is a woman at church taking offense to Brad's response that "the bible is not the Word of God". She was so appalled by it that she barely gave him the opportunity to explain that the bible says that JESUS is the Word of God not scripture. (Have you had similar encounters throughout your ministry and what you thought was open dialog?) All that to say that this will remain as Brad put it "a respectful and courteous conversation". Now that I've clarified that I'd like to get this conversation going!

One of the overarching thoughts from your original post that penetrated through me was that you said you weren't ready for the ideal church that you described. I wonder whether I am ready to commit to that kind of church too. I mean, once I've removed all the convenient excuses, what will be my excuse to not be involved then? Do I really just want to be a proud spectator in a church that does all the things I want it to do? Sort of like watching my favorite sports teams....

Bo Shirah

In your first 2 paragraphs it is funny to see how people are always trying to "fix" whatever it is that we're wrestling with. I'm sure I'm guilty of this towards others as well. Also, when people find a church they like, they want EVERYONE to go it don't they lol? One of the most poignant statements I heard concerning this was actually from a rather popular Evangelical (maybe even leans fundy) preacher, Jack Hayford. He said that his ministry didn't really start to grow until he became less concerned about which shepherd God's flock goes to. Once he stopped being possessive about "his" congregational members, God blessed the ministry in which he was involved.
This sounds very noble, but it is also VERY difficult to do in an age where we have automated systems to keep track of tithing and attendance, and that so many church leadership boards are pointing towards the bottom line to fund their astronomically sized buildings and payroll....


Sorry if I seemed off-putting in my other comment. I think I mentioned to you, Bo that (I think) Ive turned the corner from deconstruction to construction and am in the process of re-assembling an Ecclesiology that works. Any conversation that moves toward that goal would be more than welcome. Somewhat conveniently (sic.) I have moved across the country twice in the past two years, and therefore havent been in one place long enough to settle in to a community that fosters this kind of discussion, much less explores the possibility of putting it into practice. All of that to say that I am willing to hear what ideas you and Brad have discussed regarding what the church could and should look like. I recently heard Alan Hirsch speak and was drawn to his idea that our Christology informs our Missiology, which informs our Ecclesiology. So, in essence, figuring out how to do church requires going all the way back to our fundamental concepts about who Jesus is and what he is after in our lives. Very compelling stuff.

Bo Shirah

Recently I've been wondering what it would be like to just have a worship service at home instead of at an organized church. I actually did it today. It was spontaneous, so I regret to say that I didn't have a bulletin prepared ;-) However, it was a really meaningful time. I led singing from the piano with my 8, 6, & 4 years old sitting in chairs around me. As they sang their hearts out (I could barely hear myself lol!), I interspersed scripture reading and stopped to explain different passages from the songs and how they could relate to their lives. Then I read how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. They actually had great questions and input throughout the entire story!

There is this part of me that is curious to know what a church (as in body of people and not the building of course) completely led by volunteers would be like. I'm talking from preaching, leading worship, to counting the tithes! I've seen how self-preservation can distort church employees' motivations. I wonder about the 100% volunteer-led church....


Not sure how much you know about my journey, but having been the pastor of a new church plant that was totally volunteer-led, Im a big fan of this. However, I struggle to build a functional model of church when Im talking exclusively about small home-groups. I think Im too much of a preacher to let go of a large-group teaching model, but thats probably just my baggage. Im also a big fan of liturgy. Im drawn to the depth and richness of words, readings, prayers, and songs that have been used in the Church for centuries. Lately Ive been wondering if there was a way to create a home liturgy that was simple enough for my kids but would tap in to some of that rich history and tradition. Im convinced that the real substance of church is what takes place in small groups, walking together and working together to bring Gods kingdom into the world. BUT, Im not ready to give up on large(r) scale worship and teaching, either. I think this is why I cant seem to be satisfied with anything I find.

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