“I Hate Church As Usual…” by Randy Elrod

Randy Elrod, author and founder of the re:create Conference and Thinktank,wrote an article on his experience with Just Love! our Gateway Central experiment in downtown Austin. Here is what he wrote:

“I hate church as usual.

There, I said it. I’ll admit I’m cynical, burned out and hurt deeply…by a church that prepares her followers to engage a world that no longer exists.

Even the word “church” conjurs up visions of my tongue licking a razors edge.

Most of my therapy dollars (and there have been thousands) are spent uncovering and attempting to heal the deep wounds caused by this misguided institution.

So imagine my surprise last week when I “accidentally” limped into a church experience that actually seemed, well…uh…real.

JUST LOVE is a downtown church experiment of Gateway Church in Austin, TX ( Twitter: @g8wayaustin).

Each Tuesday JUST LOVE convenes at The Arthouse and features:


The week I attended it was loosely and beautifully lead by non-alpha leaders Eric, Ramy, Tiffany and the 1211 band.

JUST LOVE features stunningly beautiful and haunting acoustic music, thought provoking short films, poetry and stories in a setting any creative would die for. The time was expertly woven together by impromptu but focused narration.

One soundbite:

“When you don’t know what to do….default to love.”

But, that was only the beginning. It still seemed like a very cool emergent church service.

Until all of a sudden, you’re assigned to a group leader with three other unfamiliar people, each handed three bottles of water and asked to go out on the street and hand them out to people you feel need them—in downtown Austin.

I met Darlene on 6th St.

An African-American woman in a wheelchair with a lot of spunk. She gratefully took the water, told me she just had surgery—so of course—I promptly told her I just had surgery as well. She told me, “Honey, make sure you go down the street to the Austin pain clinic and they will pump you full of morphine. It’s the only way to fly.”

As we all laughed, three other rather fragrant and large homeless men surrounded us and took water. The conversation continued very naturally and for the first time in my life—except maybe one time just north of Afghanistan—I realized I could possibly be doing church the way God intended.

Gulp, the way it’s supposed to be done?

Afterwards, limping painfully back on my knee still recovering from surgery,  hot and sweaty in 100 plus degree weather, we headed back to a downtown restaurant for a hang out together.

As many of the JUST LOVE attenders converged on Congress Avenue all excitedly talking about their experiences—a girl in front of us still had one bottle of water and warmly handed it to a young lady hastily walking by—when suddenly the lady angrily slapped it out of the girls hand, and as it flew through the air seemingly in slow motion, everyone hushed to stunned silence. (To read the first person account of this story, go HERE.)

Fear, anger, disappointment, and myriad other emotions leaped to the forefront of each person’s humanity.

“When you don’t know what to do….default to love.”

Is this a radical new concept in doing church?

Or is it a revolutionary, ancient and timeless concept that we’ve somehow forgotten? Or ignored? Or…?

Question: What do YOU think?

If this post caused you angst, glee or gulp, caused you to think, please share it with others by going here.”

What new things has your community attempted to engage your city?

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