Tuesday Re-mix – Here is an early post from last year, updated and rerun for your consideration.
There are some things about the “culture” of the church today that, in my humble opinion, need changing. There are some things we do very well, but there are some disciplines we tend to ignore and some attitudes we display that do not honor Christ. Obviously, there are some individual churches who are getting it mostly right and to whom these opinions probably don’t apply (it’s difficult talking about “the church” in broad strokes since there is such extraordinary diversity among us), but looking across the landscape of the Christian church in the Western world, there are some glaring deficiencies. And these are not simple behavioral issues that can be changed easily. They are cultural–i.e., they are deeply rooted and ingrained in the very “DNA” of today’s church. The change that is needed, therefore, is likewise a pretty profound, invasive shift at a cultural level. I won’t take the space here to begin listing the symptoms of what is wrong (if you have been drawn to this blog, you probably already have some ideas about that). Rather, I will jump right to the solution…or at least a part of the solution.
My good friend, Dr. Ann Farris taught me something important about change. If you want to change the results you are getting, you have to change your behavior (that’s not the part she taught me–everybody already knows this part). It’s that old definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But often times, no matter how hard we try to change our behavior (be honest, how many of your new year’s resolutions have you already blown?) we do not. Paul talked about this is Romans 7:15: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And however true this is for an individual, it is ever much more so for an organization (or for a church). But we can change our behavior (this is the part Ann taught me). If you want to change your behavior, you have to change how you perceive the circumstances–you have to change your paradigm.
So here is the solution: the church today needs a new metaphor. We need a new way of perceiving what we are. Our current metaphor is no longer serving us very well. It (arguably) served us for a time, but will not serve us any longer. The metaphor we have been using is the “institution”. We have structured and re-structured, and re-re-structured over the centuries. We have invested our best understanding and resources into growing the institution that is our local church. We have sacrificed (in varying degrees) to preserve the institution. In most cases, the conflict we experience within the church deals, at least in part, with our desire to preserve that institution we have created. In short, we treat the church the same way we treat our government, our schools, our businesses or our neighborhood association: all are fine institutions worthy of preservation.
But I don’t think it was ever Jesus’ desire that the church would become one of man’s institutions. And I think all our anxieties over trying to preserve the institution that is our local church (or protect it, or save it, or grow it) are misplaced, because the church was never supposed to be an institution. We need to stop thinking of it that way. We need a different metaphor.
I vote for “revolution” as our new metaphor. I think that is closer to what Jesus had in mind. It is certainly closer to what the New Testament church actually was. It was a movement. It was a radical change. It was fiery-eyed and largely out of control. It was not about interminable committee meetings, strategic 5-year plans, systematic fundraising efforts or programmed evangelism. There is nothing wrong with those things (well, I could do without the interminable committee meetings), but they cannot be the main thing. They are not the heartbeat of the revolution. Rather, what drives this movement that we call Christianity is a people so filled with the Spirit of God that nothing else in their lives matters nearly as much. They are radical followers of Christ. They stick out as opposed to blending in. Nothing about them makes much sense logically except that, somehow, huge God-sized things keep happening in their lives and in their communities. And these radical revolutionaries are marked with an uncanny and unconditional love and forgiveness for one another. They are dangerous. They are a threat to most people’s sense of normal.
Now that’s a metaphor worth getting up on Sunday morning and driving downtown for. That’s a metaphor that would change a culture…and a church…and a community.
© Blake Coffee
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