The Missoula Project

by Jay Stevens

This week’s feature story in the Missoula Independent profiles the “Missoula Project,” an effort to plant a church here to create a church community for believers and unbelievers alike. It’s an attractive idea, isn’t it?

Call me dubious. I wrote about them just over a year ago, when I stumbled on their “mission statement” for their church in our community:

Nestled in the heart of the mountains, Missoula, Montana, sits like a crown jewel in the Last Best Place. It is a beautiful city to live in, but it’s a barren wasteland spiritually. Nearly 70% of those who live here are completely unchurched. Many have rejected modern religiosity and are looking elsewhere for answers.Burned-out ex-hippies, liberal intellectuals, rugged individualists, and bulletproof college students – all are on a quest for meaning and fulfillment. These people hunger for something more, but they are not finding it. Very few have any real understanding how Christ and the Gospel can quench their thirst.

To be fair to the Missoula project, Christian Cryder admitted in the comments that the statement was written in part to convince church elders of the necessity for starting a church in Missoula, and apologized for the “barren wasteland” comment. He wasn’t interested in changing what Missoula is, just offering us a little more community.

And, indeed, throughout the article and on their blog, pastors Cryder and Sutherland emphasize that their church’s members’ relation to Christ is irrelevant, and that they’re not setting up this project solely as a means to prosthelityze.

Still, if Cryder and Sutherland were interested in creating a nondemoninational community of believers and non-believers alike here in Missoula, a good start would be to renounce their ties to the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA), with its hostile historical stance towards the Civil Rights and Vietnam peace movements, and its slightly disturbing current stance towards gays and prohibition against women pastors.

And if the Missoula Project really isn’t interested in prosthelityzing as its missionary goal, they’d rearrange their leadership to include non-believers and members from other denominations and religions. (There’s a very healthy Buddhist presence in Missoula!)

Otherwise, to me, the group is what it seems: a mission from the PCA with clever packaging. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

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  1. Jedediah Redman

    I’m wondering to whom they will address their prayers…

  2. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    They’re going to make us heathens into godfearing christians? BWAHAHAHAHHAAA! Good luck with that! Might I suggest they try Butte! Now THERE’S some heathens a missionary could sink his teeth into! And God knows that Butte could use some civilizing!

  3. goof houlihan

    “Burned-out ex-hippies”… told me everythng I needed to know about their feelings for their “flock”.

  4. Scott

    I guess this article doesn’t make sense to me in many ways. The main way, is you say they should renounce their denomination, and its stance on issues. But throughout both your articles you say what a christian should look like (accepting of gays, pro-choice, letting other faiths in, etc..) So in a sense you are cool with them as long as they believe what you do about Christianity. Your doing everything you tell them not to. Kinda hypocritical

  5. The point, Scott, is that they claim they want a church that fits in with Missoula’s values, that they weren’t necessarily interested in dictating or forcing PCA values on us. So I was writing on how they could be more convincing. Renounce the parts of PCA that are abhorrent to most of the city. Seems simple enough to me.

    I admit I have little tolerance for intolerance. Call me hypocritical if you want.




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