Three to four times a day, a herd of cows is brought passed a Church building in a small village in the Ecuadorean Cloud Forest region. On one of those passes, a bull saw his reflection in the glass of the front door of that church and charged it! The picture you see to the left is the result of that charge.
I really don’t want to be that guy who’s pegged as anti-church, but there certain things that cause my prophetic angst to rise to fever pitch. Like the bull, I want to charge.
Anything that impedes The Gospel, detracts from Making Disciples, or moves in a direction that is Contra-Kingdom has got to be fractured, shattered, disassembled, and put out with the trash. I do understand though, that the speed or manner by which any institution or system is shifted away from the actions or attitudes that cause those things will differ depending on context, culture, and willingness. Likewise, I understand that the time frame in which a local body becomes self-aware on those issues will vary.
This will begin a series of blog posts on the topic. I’ll have to admit that it’s something I’ve been trying to avoid. I don’t want to enter systems or institutions to bring change. It would seem counter-intuitive for me except for the resonation in my heart which is God-Directed toward that end. For me, it’s easier to buck the system, to snort and charge rather than to enter in and be a catalyst for change. In discussing this with a friend recently, he said, “I simply do not have the patience for that kind of work.”
I’ve been having repeated and multiple dreams of late regarding the prying open locked containers or closed systems. They’ve all been mechanical in nature and void of people. I’m not exactly sure what they all mean yet, but I wanted to lay the background for this and the following posts.
By the time most institutions or systems become self-sustaining (a frightening concept), they’ve activated a defense shield. Anything or anyone that seeks to penetrate that shield is perceived as a threat. Like antibodies within a living entity that attack other living organisms perceived as threats, so the local church often responds. Systems tend towards becoming self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-serving. They also tend toward becoming self-adhesive. They stick to each other at the expense of sending each other out into a world that needs them. A church which maintains an antibiotic approach will eventually need to reestablish a healthy balance by accepting probiotics.
Again, I think it might be bordering on arrogance to assume that I can be that probiotic, but likewise, I dare not reject where or what I perceive the Lord is calling me to. Perhaps some of you feel the same. On the whole, I think it’s easier to leave systems or institutions and complain about them from a distance than to engage them with a Christ centered compassion. Maybe it’s time for people living in glass houses to start throwing stones.
Before going further, I want to make a distinction between entering into a foreign body for the purpose of stirring up trouble, and being invited in as a consultant of sorts. Randomness should, in my opinion be avoided. If you’re part of an existing body and the Lord calls you to be an agent of change from within, then so be it. If you’re not part of a body, but invited in, then fine. If you’re pointed towards and appointed by the Lord then proceed with caution. Our passions can be self-manipualtive. What should be avoided, are the random and unwarranted emotionally charged attacks motivated by the latest pendulum swings of our own sensibilities. I don’t think the Lord gives any of us cart blanche permission in this arena.
On the whole, I think that local bodies would benefit by looking at themselves as individuals.
A local church, or a local gathering of the people who make up the church, should be a corporate representation of what it calls its individual members to be.
Individual members of the body and the corporate body of believers both have tendencies to close in on themselves, isolate and protect themselves, assure their own survival, be independent rather than healthfully co-dependent, and inflexible instead of in flux.
Before a local body, system, or institution can shift away from those things that impede the gospel, thwart disciple making, or move in a direction away from Kingdom, they too must “deny themselves, take up his cross and follow Him.” (Matthew 16:24) They must lose their life to save it. (Mark 8:35) They must die to bear much fruit. (John 12:24) They must do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than themselves. (Philippians 2:3) In other words, a local church should be more than the sum of what it desires its individual members to be.
Here comes the hard part and most likely the real reason why I don’t want to be involved in this kind of work. In order to be a catalyst for change within a system, I must be an example of that change. I must be willing to turn the cheek, to receive “friendly fire,” to be persecuted by the church itself, to be discounted, ridiculed, and rejected by those whom I love. I must be saltier and brighter than the existing salt and light. I must be willing to stick it out until the appointed time. I know that I’m not cut out for any of that. It remains, however, a poor excuse for not going where the Father says to go, saying what He says to say, and doing what He says to do.
In the rest of this series, I will lay out all of those things within the church which I perceive to be impediments to the gospel, counter productive to disciple making, and contrary to Kingdom movement. By His Grace, Mercy, and Power, I hope do this in a manner which is humble and honors my Lord and His people. If I get out of line, I’d urge you, my family in Christ, to be corrective, convicting, and Christlike in calling me back. But, I’d ask you to take a meditative pause, seek the Lord, and understand that I don’t have all these things figured out. I’m walking the journey like you.
Please subscribe to my blog to follow this series. In addition, I’d love your comments, questions, and counsel. One question for this post:
What are some of the things that you perceive are impediments to the gospel, thwart disciple making, and push away from Kingdom directed movements within the church?