I have had rabbits on my mind for the past week or so. This past winter we have had a large influx of rabbits all around our home. It would not be unusual to leave the house at 7 a.m. and find 1 or 2 dozen rabbits grazing on our lawns. For this reason, and because of dry weather this past year, the lawn is so dead and so gone I have been thinking about getting rid of it. The entire property is also well fertilized! But this isn’t the reason I have been thinking about rabbits.
I am a refugee from “normal” church. Since I closed the church I pastored in Moreno Valley in 1998, I have found it impossible to stick with attendance at a “regular” church. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am still a follower of Jesus, even if I am not a “member” of a church. It seems as though for the past decade I have been on a journey of trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus outside of the boundaries of a “traditional” church.
It turns out, I am not alone. Research indicates that there are millions of people in the U.S. just like me, who for whatever reason, have left the confines of the “regular” church and have been wandering in the wilderness. An old saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” As a student of church growth for the past twenty years, and a practitioner of traditional church life on a significant level for at least ten years of that, I was ready for Tony and Felity Dale and George Barna’s recent book, The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small is the New Big for Today’s Church.
The Dales’, with the able assistance of George Barna, have created a handbook for church life that may appeal to the millions of church dropouts like myself. With the emphasis on the non-hierarchial, non-institutional and Spirit-led community of believers, I know I found myself hungry for this kind of church life.
It is possible that I am projecting my hopes and dreams of recapturing the kind of community I experienced several years ago as a small band of people ministered to skateboarders simply because this is what God “told us to do.” I have often said that this ministry experience was the best of my life, no politics, no division, just a focus on what the Spirit was saying and asking us to do. We were experiencing “simple” church and we didn’t even know it. With The Rabbit and the Elephant I now have a theology and a practical guide that has helped me fit all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Now I am left with something to do, start a simple church. That should keep me busy while I am waiting for my lawn to grow back and the rabbits to reappear.