<%image(20051107-remnant 2.jpg|216|205|remnant)%> I’m thinking of starting a series that will be called “Rethinking Church” or something like “Obstacles to Rethinking Church.” Neither of those titles are very exciting or inspiring, but let’s press ahead into the meat of things and do a quick overview.
The Basic Matter at Hand:
Christians believe that God is always at work and that he wants to birth new things in new contexts with new generations. It’s not that the new is novel and trendy, it’s just the way things are. Unless the church is reproducing and bearing fruit (for the “fruit” is what enables reproduction), it is dead and will become a relic of the past like the Shakers.
And while God is doing some wonderful new things in emerging churches and gatherings, there are a number of obstacles that stand in our way, giving the fresh clean work of God a stale odor and spoiling his work. I hope to take a look at such rot over the following days and attempt to deconstruct the ways we limit the work of God.
What is necessary in order to rethink church?
A critical evaluation of the following:
• Language/Culture: we need to rethink our vocabulary and terminology. Does our language limit what God is trying to do? Does our language belie some deeply embedded assumptions that we intertwine with church? Eg. Do we come to church to be fed? Are we supposed to “get something” out of the worship service?
• Assumptions about Church and our traditions that inform them: a building, a service, a liturgy, a time of teaching/preaching, singing songs, receiving a message from a professional, reciting a liturgy. How do we evaluate success? Numbers? Traditions are not all bad, but they do need to be critically examined and exposed to other traditions from different times and places.
• Scripture Verses: a heavy reliance on Acts and the epistles has caused us to overlook the way that Jesus himself ministered. Even if he didn’t call it church, we need to be open to Jesus and his methods when considering what church is. In addition, is the OT temple a helpful guide in figuring out the NT church? Has Jesus replaced the temple and taken our focus off of the building? We don’t want to follow in the tracks of Marcion here. I just want to take the message of the NT as seriously as possible without disparaging the OT.
• The Catalyst: God is the one who births new things. It is not up to us to figure out the time, place, or shape of the church. While planning is not a bad thing, I have seen strategic planning consistently kick God out of the picture.
• The Quencher: Even if God does birth something new, are we able to keep it in his hands and let him take it wherever he wants with whoever he wants? Or will our old religious system just kick in and take over. Will we even like what God does or will we resist it? Remember, the Pharisees knew the scriptures inside and out and they still missed out on God.