I’m a “church” person. I know that that’s a bad word for most folks. When they hear that word, they think of hate and fear, exclusion and ignorance. And with good reason. The church people and religious activities we see in the media are typically pretty ugly, and, in general, they feature folks on the wrong side of history and humanity.

It wasn’t always that way. It used to be that church people were the honest and dependable ones, the folks you could count on to do the right thing or help you out of a jam. Before that, in ancient times church people were the only ones in the community who could read and write. They created and supported art and culture. Along the way, some pretty important revolutions were started at church, by church people.

All that has changed, of course. We all know (and maybe we ARE) people who have felt burned by church in one way or the other. I understand the desire to be done with words like “church” and “religion.” On the other hand, I think stepping away and letting negativity own those words might be a little like letting the bad guys win. Why should the haters get to define things, when there are alternatives? I’d like there to be another voice in the dialogue. I want to take church back.

So, with all that in mind, here’s the question: what does church look like in the 21st century? What are the assumptions that can be challenged (for example, does it need to be on a Sunday? Of course not), and what is vital (for example, I think an in-person, social element is essential)? What would it take to make church a relevant place where personal growth and societal change can start? What can we throw away, and what should be kept? Obviously there are theological concerns, but I’m also thinking about structure and mechanics. Anything goes.

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