I come from a family of firefighters, which means it’s always a challenge to find a date to be together with their conflicting shifts. Today is our annual Dash family Christmas gathering. Should be lots of fun.
Before I go to get ready, just a few thoughts banging around my head:
- I really liked what Alan Roxburgh said earlier this year in Toronto. “God is up to something in ordinary local churches. It’s important for me to say that.” Alan repeated what we know: many are saying that institutional churches have had it. But there is a movement of churches that is discovering gospel and missional life. “The God who encounters us in Jesus always turns up in the most God-forsaken places.”
- As I commented this morning to Brian, I think we forget that the biggest problem is not institutions but people. No offense to people – I am one. I have the possibility to mess up a house church just as quickly as I do an institution. I’m surprised by Barna and Viola’s optimistic view of the early church, actually. (Update: I should make it clear that they do recognize problems in the early church and in organic churches.) There are things to admire, but if you get to Revelation 2 and 3 you see that five out of the seven of these organic churches in a real mess. Is the problem, or the solution, really structural? Or does it go much deeper? I don’t want to dismiss every institutional concern, but I believe the real problem goes much deeper, and it’s a problem that exists also in organic churches.
- That being said, organic churches have one major thing going for them. When they die, they die. Institutional churches have a way of going on long after the life and energy of that church is over. Perhaps the problem isn’t the institution in these cases; it’s that the institution is all that’s left. But that’s like blaming the corpse for death. The body is fine as long as there’s life inside. But when the life has ended, it’s not fault of the now lifeless body. It’s just time for a burial.
I think that any church that is living out the Gospel is the church. I think most churches (or at least their leadership) knows when they are just going through the motions whether because they are more interested in institutional survival or are more interested in being cool, we know we are faking it. It may not be apparent right away but eventually the truth comes out and it is either a vibrant community or just another social organization.