Getting in the Way . . . Rethinking Church

Over the past week or so we’ve looked at a few of the things that roadblock the new things God wants to do in the church. Our language, assumptions, use of scripture, and limited view of God can all divert God’s work onto meandering back roads that never reach his ultimate purpose.

Today I wanted to wrap up with a look at the proverbial flat tire that will stop us in our tracks even if we’ve left the road clear for God. Part of me wants to call this fiend “the quencher,” but that doesn’t quite capture it. Perhaps the problem is most simply described as “us.”

When God has his ways with us, things will inevitably get messed up beyond our wildest dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. God has been in the business for thousands of years of sending people across barren wastelands, throwing them into prisons, making them leave their homes, etc. That’s not to say that God is loving, gracious, and compassionate, ever willing to pour out blessings on all of his children. But if we think a Hummer H2 is behind door number one instead of an angry mob – my goodness – are you in for a surprise. I can’t tell you why things are this way, but it always seems that we come out on the other end with more blessings than we could have ever imagined. Surely we can expect to lose comfort, friends, or family, but the eventual gain on the other side of suffering is to die for.

And so we have a hypothetical group of people who are gathering to meet and seem to be pretty well on track. They are yielded to the Spirit, meet in the homes of their friends, see them entering into the kingdom, and enjoy a lively fellowship. Then God calls one family begin meeting in their own home apart from the group. Perhaps another person emerges as the leader of the group and assumes greater amounts of authority over time. A tragedy strikes another family. And then God’s Spirit shows up at one meeting and sends one family into tears of repentance at one point, another into peals of laughter, and then promptly heals a person’s hip that has been troublesome for weeks.

How do we respond to these changes? Can we accept God’s calling of our friends away from us? What’s wrong with us? Do they just dislike us? And what will become of this leader? How much authority should this person have? What does he think of the family that’s leaving the group? How do we help the family facing tragedy? Oh, and do we have room in our theology for healing and emotional experiences with the Spirit?

Far be it from me to say that I know how to handle any of these situations. My point is that things get messy and gray. It’s hard to know what to do when life falls apart or the unexpected happens. Our greatest danger in such situations is ourselves. God clearly knows what he’s up to, even if we’re in a dense haze. Leaning on God’s Spirit, the scriptures, and one another is the best that we can hope for until things become clear again.