A Crippled Postscript

I have just finished writing and scheduling two posts reviewing Thin Places (they’ll be live next week) and tonight as I sat down to finish my multiple-post series on JR Woodward‘s Creating A Missional Culture, a different post wrote itself. It began as an information dump – an attempt to clear my head in order to focus on the planned task. I write a lot of these and few of them ever find their way into the public sphere…but here it is.

I’ve noticed a trend over the last decade. A lot of my Church of Christ and other non-liturgical, free-church tradition friends have found their way into historically mainline denominations – Methodist, Episcopal…even Orthodox and Catholic. Meanwhile a large percentage of the admittedly smaller number of mainline friends have gravitated away from those same denominations towards more decentralized and sometimes even Evangelical contexts. Many of these have moved into what would be characterized as non-denominational emergent churches as well as more missional church planting contexts.

As I’ve continued to wrestle with my own connection to the Churches of Christ, this phenomenon is one of several reasons that I have NOT made any moves toward “membership” in another denomination. As I mentioned in my previous post highlighting the dangers of “freedom,” there is a marked tendency to move on to something new and (IMO) reject too much of that which we’re moving from.

People from “low church” traditions have seen how limiting and restrictive spontaneity can be…and they long for the richness and beauty of ancient liturgy. People from mainline traditions are tired of the institutionalism (that others of us complain about even without having experienced at nearly the same level) and they long for freedom of expression in faith. People from Evangelical churches are tired of the suppression of women while Mainliners are weary of the suppression of laity.

Within the missional conversation, many are calling for the release of the apostles, evangelists and prophets…and I wonder if we’re already beginning to bind up the pastors and teachers.

Jon Stewart said it so well in his critique of Bill O’Reilley – human history is a cyclical account of a minority group rising up to overthrow the establishment, only to become the new establishment which will in turn be overthrown by the oppressed minority they create.

I don’t have any delusion that my perspective is unique, but over the last several years I’ve been able to simultaneously watch behind the curtains of conservatives and liberals, mainline and evangelical, large church and house church, rural, urban and suburban. I’ve seen the same kinds of passion, conviction, blind spots, rhetoric, logic, and faith employed – for good and ill. I’ve noticed how the faulty reasoning which Group A accuses Group B of using is often also employed by Group B…just on a different set of agenda items.

As people have switched sides I’ve seen how quickly they leave behind the very things that folks switching the other way are coming to claim. And I’ve also seen this observation become an excuse to defend the status quo, rather than what seems the more obvious conclusion – it has never made more sense than now for us to work together to cultivate the truly holistic faith culture we all obviously crave.

I realize that for those who have grown weary in a particular context, it is difficult to not be sickened by anything that reminds them of that context. I’ve gone, and continue to go, through much of that myself.

For those who have grown weary of the almost exclusively inward-focused gathered church, it is right to long for the experiences of living as the scattered church. But don’t jump out of one ditch into the other. We are called to be the gathered AND scattered church. We need spontaneity and liturgy; mission, worship, ministry and discipleship. We need information and experience for our transformation. We need prayer and action, faith and deeds.

We need a missional church that acknowledges all believers as disciples and all disciples as agents of God’s reconciling mission. But we still need people who dedicate time and energy to learning the Biblical languages, the history of the church, the debates of the Great Councils, the cultivation of rich theologies. We don’t need those people calling all the shots, but we do need their voice in our midst. Just as we need the voice of our children, the practically-minded blue collar worker, the stay-at-home parent, the school teacher, the nurse, the lawyer, the small business owner and large business executive. We need the pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets and evangelists…because God gave us each of them to equip the saints for works of ministry.

We need to embrace messiness and the beautiful chaos of vibrant life, but not to the exclusion of rhythm and structure. We need them in constant interplay, providing counter-melodies which keep our song vibrant and alive.

We need to go out and we need to come back together. We need the meal in the upper room and we need the enormous gathering of Pentecost.

We do not need to settle for what we have, but neither do we need to start over from scratch.

We need each other.


Posted on November 29, 2012, in church of christ, church planting movements, Missional and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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