Another post from the past....
I had an interesting dream this morning. I was at a church meeting of some kind. It was an attempt, I think, to be free-flowing and to allow different people to take part and so on. Still, there was a man, up on a platform behind a podium, kind of running the meeting... at least announcing a general outline or agenda. It was his first time to do this, and he goofed! He missed some events that the woman who usually was "in charge" included, and she stopped him and loudly reminded him of what he was leaving out, insisting that these things happen immediately. However, the people who normally "led" these things weren't prepared for whatever reason, so everyone in the audience was sitting there figgeting while those folks tried to organize themselves. So of course you-know-know (yes, me!) got up and made some "suggestions" to get things organized and back-on-the-road again. Oh dear. Lord, are You telling me something???)
When it comes to this whole conversation about "church," it is not so difficult to SAY "we need to change," or even to say, "We need to focus on Jesus instead of on our programs" (or instead of on our vision or our mission statement, or even on the vision of the senior pastor or board or whatever).... but it is not to easy to CAST ASIDE things that we've previously accepted, committed to, participated in (possibly enthusiastically), encouraged (or pushed) others to participate and commit to... things we have even "believed in."
By the way, is there a difference between all those attitudes and actions, and actual, personal, "believing in?" Is it possible to actually "believe in" an organization/program/idea... or can we really only "believe in" a person? What or who is the object of our belief? Does that thing or idea or person have enough of what it takes, that we can "put our faith in" it or him/her, and be truly satisfied, and truly be able to trust that object of our belief no matter what?
It comes down to the fact that human beings, no matter how wonderful, can never, in the end, fulfill those expectations and needs, which we seem to have been created with, and without fulfillment we are left floundering and lost. And the same thing applies to human institutions and constructs of any kind, be they organizations, ideas, programs, theories, buildings, liturgies, whatever.
Which really does bring us back to our very deep-rooted need for the supernatural - for God. Not "a god" or even "gods" or "Gaia" or "a higher power," but The God, our Creator and the root of our Purpose, and our Way, our Life... the Truth. "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only true God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen" (I Timothy 1:17).
Our problem seems to be that we want to place God into, well, into a box of our own making; to redesign Him or even create our own God whom we can understand and control.
We can't, of course.
But when we try - when we attempt to "download" Him into a man-made program, firstly we leave most of Him behind because He just won't fit into our narrow parameters; and secondly, our programs, no matter how wonderful, seem always to be in beta state, with endless glitches... and crashes.
What to do? We are human. And we can't comprehend all that He Is. It seems inevitable that we need some kind of structure, some kinds of metaphors, that help us to relate to, yes, to be in relationship with, our unlimited God, Who is, clearly, very Personally Relational, and yet, in so many ways is also incomprehensible to us with our limitations.
And in reality, that is a good part of the purpose of "the church" - which of course He Himself designed. The problem for us seems to be that we want to take something very beautiful, very workable, elegantly simple, really, despite it's inherent mystery, this church with our God as its focus, and with all of us who believe in Him, in unity with and under Him, and with each other in Him; and then we want to add endless complexities, that in the end put the focus on us. (Because we truly do want to be in control ourselves: it seems to be our number one human drive... and our number one failing in relation to our created purpose to know and worship our Creator).
We, His church, are to gather together; that is clear. But how do we keep the church being His church, and not our/my church?
Yes, we have to be in relationship with Him. He calls each of us personally to be sons/daughters/children of the Father, brothers/sisters of Jesus, inhabited and taught/guided by/infilled by the Holy Spirit... but He also clearly calls us to be many fruit-producing branches all connected together and drawing our sustenance from One Vine... to be all the multitudinous parts of one body, with every part of great value and all parts working together, under One Head... to be one flock, going in and out together, feeding together, obedient to and under the care of One Shepherd.
The one church of Jesus Christ, under Father God over all, and led by His Spirit, has One Vision and One Shepherd (senior pastor?!?).
In its human form, there are leadership roles, but they are roles of teaching and caring and servant-hood, and they are roles that are meant to be taught, shared, passed on to others, and from them to still others, and so on. How can any "church" then be "under the vision of the senior pastor" (or under the vision/kingship of any single human being, or even human committee)? Carried to its logical outcome, that church then has a very strong chance of becoming "our church" (opposed to "those other churches"), or worse, "my church" - and no longer the "church of Jesus Christ."
We cannot solve this problem ourselves, obviously. Our human bent is always to take control, ourselves. So we have to keep focusing on, submitting to, obeying, trusting, worshiping Him. And yes, we need to truly believe in Him, and be moment-by-moment under the control of His Spirit - individually of course; but we also need each other, encouraging one another, keeping each other focused on Him, realizing that each of us has something unique and essential to contribute and no one of us is so all-sufficient as to warrant being truly "in charge," and therefore, we need to be sharing together so we don't fall into our self-controlling bent, individually or even as a group. He Himself designed His church that way. He is Relational. He is Love. And that is to be, in the end, the sign of His church, His people, His family, His body.
"This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us." (I John 3:23)
They'll know we are Christians by our - by His - Love. They'll know we are His church by our - by His - love.
So profoundly simple. Isn't it? But impossible unless He is truly at the helm, and we are truly His church.
(This one from September 14, 2008)