My post on small church continues to reverberate in my mind. I started a fun conversation with @angelaswisdom. I think it is good for us to struggle with what church looks like, and whether we are creating something that is not really what God intended.
Recently, one of my amazing children gave me a strong rebuke – and it was deserved. She came to me with a thing, and I reacted out of fear, concern, and scenario creation (yup, I can do that – worst case scenarios usually). As I began my reaction, she stopped me with these words: “Mom, I can see that this is going to be about you, and I can’t do that today.”
But I thought I was reacting based on her issue. I thought I was responding out of care for HER. What I was missing was that it was MY care I was worried about. MY fear system was triggered, and I responded accordingly.
So what if we create systems and people structures in a similar way? I could have just sat with my daughter and her issue and waited to see if she had an answer. What if we create systems to make ourselves and others feel safe instead of out of life flowing from the Source?
The bible shows us a bit of what the early church faced. They had an influx of 3,000 members the first day. Talk about a need for a structure! Then, as time went on, they started to struggle with the humanness of it all – who would take care of the widows? So, systems began to be created. Part of me wonders if the problem started here – when people found out that the church was willing to help, did they invite their friends to church or did they introduce them to God? I think the two should be synonymous, but it is possible that they could be separate.
Then, trouble started (just after the New Testament period). First, there were the persecutions – many people gave up fellow Christians in order to save themselves. When the dust settled, the church had to find a way to restore trust. So, they decided to develop penances that would help those who had hurt the Body to gain entrance again – but also to protect the church from those who would do damage. About this time, they also put some laws in place that helped limit the abuse of traveling “prophets,” some of whom were more like professional moochers.
I’m currently reading Healing the Eight Stages of Life. This book takes Erickson’s eight stages of development, and helps us look at how we can work toward healing through our relationship with God. Interestingly, the first stage is trust. Without predictability and lots of care, we don’t develop trust. The second stage is autonomy – the ability to realize that we are living our lives, not someone else’s. Autonomy is built best in a place that has lots of loving support and good boundaries. Too much freedom, or too many strictures, and we become enmeshed instead of having autonomy. Sometimes, organizational development mirrors human development.
You’ve probably seen the phenomenon where people bring friends to church so the pastor can talk to them about Jesus. This is a bit of an autonomy problem. You see, the pastor’s job is to help you be autonomous – to live the life you were created to live in Jesus. To do the “good works” God has prepared for you. Pastor’s job is to build you up so that when you are on the job, at the gym, with friends, at home, God touches others lives through you.
Yet, as Angela pointed out in our Twitter exchange, the church was created to be community. What does a community of trusting, autonomous people being fueled by the Maker of the Universe look like?