Thursday, May 19, 2011
What’s Wrong with Organic Church? (Part 8)
Too Proud of Ourselves
I’ve saved this one for last because, honestly, it’s probably the one area where I’ve failed the most miserably. It’s also the one area where pretty much every person who embraces simple church has fallen victim to their own excitement – at least once.
When I first discovered the New Testament model of church I was so excited on the one hand (about how plainly the scriptures supported what we were doing) and so angry (that for so long I had been blind to these things) that I had to shout it from the mountaintops – or at least from the top of my blog – for all to hear.
One friend who felt especially insulted and defensive about my overzealous articles told me later – at a lunch meeting where we both did plenty of apologizing to one another – that my rapid fire, non-stop blasting of the traditional church model was so overwhelming for him that he felt that his only recourse was to escalate the discussion to the nuclear option. In effect, I left him no room for concession and my approach was so provoking and ungracious that he couldn’t have a friendly dialog with me over the issue. Hence the need for a make-up lunch meeting where we could both apologize, bury the hatchet and reaffirm our friendship.
I’ve often said that the best way to talk to others about the wonders of the simple church experience is to focus on the blessings, the good fruit that comes from this new testament-inspired ideology. Like bringing warm bread out of the oven, the smell fills the house and everyone stops what they’re doing to say, “Mmm...that smells great! Can I have some of that?”
Sadly, I’ve only recently learned how to apply this philosophy in my writing about organic church. And some people will still find ways to be offended or threatened by my writing no matter what tone I take or how much I attempt to be gracious. Still, as long as I do my part to share the story in love there’s nothing I can do about how people respond.
This is partly why my recent book about the Church, This Is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended, took over 3 years to finish. The first and second drafts were essentially collections of my previous articles on the subject and most of those were intentionally provocative and agitating in their tone. You see, I used to believe that the best way to get your blog noticed, and your articles shared and talked about, was to write the most incendiary and controversial article possible in order to wake people up and shake them into action. In some ways this strategy did work. I did get lots of comments, and I did generate a lot of reaction. But sadly, the only result was that those who already agreed with me felt justified to be just as confrontational as I was, and those who did not agree with me were only pushed further away from any possibility of taking me, or my articles, to heart.
This is why I started my book over from scratch after over 2 years writing, re-writing and editing. I knew that the people I wanted most to read the book and to consider my ideas would never make it past the introduction if I kept such an adversarial tone. So, I painfully scrapped my nearly-completed 250 page draft and started over from the beginning. My hope was to ask potential skeptics to give me some grace and to take a look at some amazing scriptures about what God’s plan for His Church has been from the beginning of time. Even if they didn’t draw the same conclusions as I did, at least it might be possible to show them – as my brothers and sisters in Christ – a little more detail about the New Testament temple than they’ve probably ever realized before.
Of course, I do understand that the implication of what I propose can seem threatening to someone whose entire career has been built upon full-time ministry through tithes and offerings at a denominational church. And I can totally understand why someone in that position might not want me to spread such concepts around so freely. But, hopefully I can at least communicate the wonders of God’s awesome plan for His people in a way that intrigues and inspires them to see themselves through the eyes of a Creator who loves them and has made plans to draw near to them as they realize who they are in Christ and actually begin to function as a true Body under the divine leadership of Jesus, the true vine.
This criticism about organic church practitioners being too proud and arrogant is, sadly, one we must own and perhaps also seek to change in order to invite more people to consider our oh-so-valid perspectives on ekklesia and organic church life.