Vintage Faith founder sifts through the ‘mess’ of modern-day church in new book
Dan Kimball is not your average church founder. Having not grown up in a Christian family, his path to evangelical Christianity has been a circuitous one, which includes several years as a punk and rockabilly drummer.
Eventually, that colorful background led to the founding of Vintage Faith Church and The Abbey in Santa Cruz, and more recently, Kimball has used his unique perspective to write “Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion,” a book published by Harper Collins.
Penned with a healthy dose of humor, the book analyzes the shortcomings of church in this day and age, while envisioning the potential for an improved future.
“I kept hearing over and over a lot of understandable confusion about Christianity and church; it’s understandably critiqued a lot,” Kimball says about the book’s conception. “I say ‘understandable’ because I’ve had the same critiques. So this book ended up coming from talking with enough people that I wanted to write something about my best understanding of what church is supposed to be.”
In his book, Kimball defines “Churchland” as “the evangelical Christian subculture and all that goes with it, including music, language, codes of approval, and values.”
“I was a citizen of Churchland for a while,” he admits. “I’m not trying to disrespect those who are—I’m trying to use the scriptures and the Bible as my basis of saying, ‘Look at what we’re doing, it’s not quite in alignment with what Jesus was about.’”
On the flip side, there are those readers who may not be religious, for whom Kimball thinks the book still has something to offer. “To those that have had bad experiences with Christians, or even just seen the portrayal of Christians in the media—the extremists generally get the attention—but there are a lot of Christians out there who aren’t like that,” he says.
With the recent presidential election, religion has become—appropriately or not—the subject of many a conversation in the media. That said, Kimball would like to stress that his book is not political. “The Bible and Jesus are not republican or democratic,” he says. “This is not a political book. When I’ve gotten asked about our church, ‘Do you direct politics?’ No. You should vote on your own intelligent decisions, about who’s the best person for the role.”
Continuing on the same train of thought, he adds, “And I do think we should be very much involved in politics as citizens, but when you start bringing in religion and using it, then I think that’s shameful for politicians to do, and it can become unintelligent mass thinking.”
“Adventures in Churchland” concludes with the idea of “Graceland,” which Kimball defines as “the beautiful, messy community of Jesus’ followers, his church, who are so appreciative of and thankful for God’s grace that they remain in the world, humbly sharing with others the wonderful news of Jesus and grace.”
Kimball says he has already seen signs of progress toward that goal, particularly at Vintage Faith, where 36 percent of its members are college students. “I really believe that what’s going on now, is there are so many younger Christians especially—some older too—that are just saying, let’s redefine church and Christianity; not redefine it to what we want it to be, but let’s go back to the teachings, let’s see where we’ve goofed up and focus on the grace of God: love, forgiveness, compassion.”
He believes that growth is also occurring outside of his church’s walls. “There are churches that are being birthed all over the country now that are focusing more in a Graceland sense,” he says. “I do believe the church is changing overall—it’s not just our church. I think there’s a movement of people saying, let’s shift from Churchland to Graceland, and that’s why I have great hope for the future of the church—though I know there will be those that fight it. But I think it’s becoming more of a discussion out there, and that’s why I’m very optimistic.”
“Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion,” can be purchased at Bookshop Santa Cruz or online at amazon.com.
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