Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fixing Church

Ok. So it's a new year and there is a new marketing push for a new book and program to revolutionize your church. In the beginning there was Jabez, and then followed Purpose Driven and then.... and now Radical. There is a book ($5 on Kindle) and a website (, and a year long plan for small groups and worship services including suggestions for songs to sing. And a lot of it is very good. The author, a megachurch pastor in AL, was uneasy with his megachurch as he traveled the world and experienced other places and churches struggling with fewer resources and smaller facilities. So, he decided to make some changes and invites others to, as well. I admit I have not read the book carefully although I have read reviews and browsed through it. I know the genre quite well though having read books like it and bought into the programs to "change our church" making it more Biblical and more discipleship oriented and, thus, more vital and relevant and growing. It is a uniquely American tendency to want to "fix" the church. If we apply our acute analysis of the problems facing the church and then come up with a creative plan to meet those problems, we can get the church back on track. And we are creative and entrepreneurial so we can easily march out a new program ( with books, and studies, and resources that all cost money - it is not cheap to get your church where it should be). Then, you marshall the forces: getting people to serve on committees, and coming to small groups and reading the books, and implementing the changes in their lives and in the church. What worked in AL will work in whatever place and whatever church you are in. If it doesn't well maybe you didn't do something right or maybe you are just in one of those churches that cannot be fixed. Been there, done the programs and wound up feeling guilty, discouraged, and out of energy for the other things that come up in church and life. And wondering what is wrong with me, and this church I am at because I failed to fix it.

Maybe churches are not supposed to be fixed, at least, not by us. Maybe that is not our job. Maybe there is no "one program that fits all" for revolutionizing the church and changing the world. Maybe we have got this backwards.

Eugene Peterson ( Practice Resurrection, is the book) says: the American church is understood almost entirely in terms of function (what we can see). We think the church is an instrument that has been given to us to bring about whatever Christ commanded us to do. That the church is a human activity to be measured by human expectations is a way of thinking we pursue unthinkingly. The whole reality of the Trinity already at work in our churches and our world is benched on the sideline while we call timeout, huddle together with heads bowed and work out a strategy by which we can compensate for God's regrettable retreat into invisibility.... we can no more understand the church functionally than we can understand Jesus functionally... we have to submit ourselves to the revelation and receive the church as the gift of Christ as he embodies himself in our world. The church simply is, it is not what it does. It is. We do not create the church. We enter into and participate in what has been given to us. Of course, we do things, and there are jobs to be done, and service to enter into but church is more than us. There is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and most of what the church is is invisible. It cannot be measured, or defined, or evaluated or judged by what we think it ought to be. (that was from Peterson, ch 6 of Practicing Resurrection).

What is the church supposed to be, I am asked? That's right, I say. What? It is to be. What is your vision for the church, I am asked. I don't know but let's find out what God's vision is for our church by entering into the life of the Body of Christ, here, together. Can I join you?