Friday, March 12, 2004

Discipline of Community

Provocative reading.
3. Fellowship can only be on the surface because we are all way too busy to invest real time in each other. In addition, we have no clue how to have real relationships because we have been through so many bad ones, and biblical principles for confrontation, reconciliation and restoration are rarely followed (because we don't want to offend anyone).

4. People have become immune to church initiatives geared toward making them feel welcomed into and part of the church. Sadly though, these are mostly "programs" to promote a "healthy, growing church" and focus more on the church's interests than on the interests of the people to whom they would minister.
From Why churches are REALLY dead..., Diana Baldwin

Points 3 and 4 of Ms. Baldwin's essay resonate deeply with my own experience in churches, and help me to articulate just why it is that I am so desperate to discover a communal Christian discipleship we can rightly call "apostolic" instead of the comfortable, consumer-driven church culture that pervades North American Christendom.

We put together attractive programs in our churches and water down the call to discipleship as much as we can in order to make it easily digestible. We hope people will reorder their lives just enough to make the "Sunday event" a regular, positive experience. "We got them in." This is the important part, you say. That's evangelism. Is it? One of my buddies would be quick to quote Augustine to me: "It's the walls that make a Christian, then?"

No. It's not the walls. It's a changed life. We aren't going to offer the evidence of Christ in our midst by creating glitzy worship "experiences" or clever programs designed to offer the gospel as a "yes/no" proposition as convincingly as possible.

People are not out there so we can convert them to an institution. Our institutions, our ways of doing things, exist to faciliate and challenge our life together as the Body of Christ, God's New Community. We're only going to draw people to Jesus if we lift him up in our lives by loving people in the hard ways.

So what would it look like if I were to really re-order my life so that I could learn the Way? I would use language as a tool for sharing, rather than trying to make people think I'm clever. I'd be friends with people who don't seem to "get me" all the time. I'd invite people over and cook for them more. I really think I would give up the addiction of having my own way all the time. I would talk more with people that I know will challenge me. I'd stop being too afraid to challenge them. You can do that when you love and know you're loved, after all, this idea of saying hard things.

These are just some of the things I've been thinking about, and some of it I've been living into.