Monday, December 26, 2005

sinking church

ambivalent about church? well, something must change. should we abandon archaic denominational structures and start "new" churches? or should we live into our church traditions and attempt to bring about reform from within? what is the value in congregating with only like minds? is it important to agree with the doctrinal statement? what about church membership? if you have some thoughts, join the good discussion going on here.
ps. happy boxing day
pps. for a little post christmas cheer (thanks flyinJ)

7 comments:

nathan Barrett said...

Burn it! (Scottish Accent)

nathan Barrett said...

One thing that came to mind later after I thought about it (always a good progression of method for communication) is that the western world and Church is always going to struggle with being individual in nature. I believe at this point (and I could be wrong) that we have come into ourselves as a people, generally speaking. We've moved away from tribalism and into the common good and a lack of fear that our ancestors used to deal with on a large scale before Christianity came to the west. It would seem then that our greatest strength (one of them) and weakness is going to center around our individualism, so a Church made of individuals from the western world will always struggle with this mentality in our fellowship, worship, discipleship, etc... Whereas the eastern world, Africa, Native Americans struggle differently. In Native America, the individual is not as important and it is more difficult to leave the community to do something on your own or to think on your own than otherwise. Maybe the solution isn't reform from within or to leave (because then we take the same problem into a different context and perpetuate it in a different skirt) maybe it is to always see ourselves (as westerners) as only a part of the body and as such we need to diversify our ranks in culture and color on purpose yet not be afraid to maintain our whiteness and the redeeming aspects of our individualism. I find that it is rarely the "either/or" dichotomy so where does that leave us. It would seem to leave us with the incredibly difficult task of intentional multi-ethnic worship communities made of teams to accomplish "mission" and the discipleship of all people's in our care. Lots more challenges, except that Oswald Chambers' 5th point in his "Secrets to a lifelong ministry" is "...you should have more to do with than you can easily cope with." My African American brother is not just different in his gifting, he brings a completely different body part of Christ that I will never be or have access to because of my ethnicity. So the question is posed, are there aspects of Christ's whole body that are only specific in ethnicity or put simply, is the right arm only capable of being a certain ethnic/cultural composition and if I'm not from that culture/ethnicity then I can never be that part of the body. Is this the movement that God wants, to be a fully multi-ethnic body in partnership for mission and worshipping together? It seems to be the Heaven we're told of.

elnellis said...

nate, i love the sound of that- true christian faith should pursue diversity at all costs- ethnic, generational, economical, sub-cultural, etc... yet most of the time we end up going after uniformity- thinking that greater unity can be achieved if we all agree on whatever. why is it so difficult to pursue unity in the midst of diversity?
i love what you said about each person bringing a unique aspect of the Imago Dei and even a unique perception of God to the community. it's like the rabbinic view of scripture and interpretation- like a gem that refracts the light to give many different views. but in light of this how do we begin to see the issue of church membership and agreeing with the doctrinal statment in order to be incorporated into the community? is this an avoidance of disruption at all costs? that if we all agree we won't have to wrestle and struggle with different perspectives in the midst of us? or is it good to be of "one mind"? where is there room for the "other" in the community of faith?
lots of questions here...

nathan Barrett said...

Yeah baby I love you!

It sounds like you are reading a ton of good stuff. I am jealous in a Christian way. I am going to try to call you soon. In regards to the question, it is so good to have tension, one could say that we need to have a Church with "intensional tension" in order to see growth. Obviously, we shouldn't ask for pain but we should create a context that allows a lot of space for intentional problems to arise that will cause us to grow apart from the natural problems that can be negative. One lady I know and love suggested that in our youth group at home, we should have a group that meets for the youth that cause problems and for the ones that don't cause problems - of course I disagreed because the ones who were causing problems were already kicked out of school and were attending an "alternative school" (sometimes I was their subsitute teacher - whoa!) At least 2/3 of them came to our meetings with the "normal" high school kids. I told the lady no and knew that they belonged with us. Eventually, she agreed but she didn't like the way that tension had entered our environment and messed up everything. I usually had to kick one of them out per week but always invited them back. They always came back - I had the chance to tell them that this is how God worked with the children of Israel and even when he disciplines us, he is the God of never-ending second chances (of course, we then miss the blessing, but never the love) Tension is what is needed to grow, balance gives understanding, but balance is not worth a dime if it is not part of forward movement, much like riding a bike. You can balance a bike, but without starting to pedal forward your balance is just a show; it ends quickly and you don't move forward, which is what balancing is all about. So Phil, as we shape our ideas and grow together, I think we will love balance, tension and forward movement, otherwise we're just a sideshow.

nathan Barrett said...

One more thing! All Churches should have a laundry, lavandaria, etc... as part of their complex. This is where the real people who deal with poverty come to congregate for at least 2-3 hours with all of thier kids. Generally they are the poorest due to the fact that they don't have their own laundry machines. What could come from this - day care, loving difficult people, providing a practical service, giving a fair price, and tons of down time for spiritual conversations, and then so much more. Intentional Tension

nathan Barrett said...

Sorry, one more,

In regards to your question about uniformity vs. diversity, have you read "Reaching out" by Nouwen? I think he deals with that subject in this book. It is something about losing the fear of the other's infingement on my security/identity and embracing them in their diversity because of such and such... I'm not sure

elnellis said...

yeah nate, great book by nouwen. for those of you who havn't read it, 3 movements are described:

re:self- from loneliness to solitude
re:others- from hostility to hospitality
re:God- from illusion to prayer

excellent text.

ps- the coversation about church continues at loopis billow, feel free to jump in.