17 November 2007

Systems and structure

Pope-leo My friend from Scotland and I have had an ongoing conversation about how to do church. The one thing that we've tried to do is to hear what God is saying about the mission and purpose of the church that we attend. This has been an ongoing conversation, and now we are widening the conversation to a few others to help us know if we are hearing right. I think we are.

But, our greatest frustration is getting others to focus on what the church should be about. We find that the more we focus on the mission and purpose statements of the church, the more resistance to change we encounter.

Last night we had a particularly "spirited" conversation about the topic, and I sensed that as we parted company, we were both a little frustrated and feeling down about our seeming lack of progress.

The conversation continued this morning, and one thought came out of all this. We have been focusing on changing the system, and not the people. The passage that came to mind was Eph. 6:12:

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

What this tells me is that we are trying to change the system, and not the people in the system. In other words, we are fighting a losing battle. As long the system is our focus, we are lost in a quagmire that will only drain us and spit us out like a seed from a piece of fruit.

The result is that we have to change our focus to not simply addressing the problem by writing a vision/mission/purpose statement for the system, we need to make our main focus the need to disciple, mentor, do spiritual formation, make disciples, etc., in order for change to happen. This will happen because we need to make the role of the Holy Spirit in each person's life of paramount importance.

So, structure is good, it is necessary, but that isn't what we are called to do. We are called to introduce people --not the system, to Christ, so that we all may experience abundant life.

What this makes me wonder is, how many times in the past I've looked directly into the sun and not seen it?

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1 comment:

  1. Stu Brandel23/11/07 18:26

    Howard - Your email sparked me to investigate your blog for the first time. I think I get the sense of what you are asking. Here are my thoughts.

    I agree fully with where you ended up: That concentrating on people -helping others follow Christ in their daily lives - is a better focus than changing the structural aspects of a church. However, why the structure/systems of the church have gotten to a point different from this is something the leadership of the church should be looking at with much prayer and self examination.

    But I think the implementation of the next step - a focus on spiritual development of people, is something that has several obstacles. I think the very largest is that we have no agreement on what God really wants for his people, because we do not have a clear idea of God.

    For my entire spiritual life my inadequate or just plain incorrect ideas about God have hindered my spiritual development.

    These inadequate ideas come from varied places, but rather than go over the inadequacies I would like to share the ideas that have made a difference to me at this point in time.

    1) The love of God for humanity is at the heart of Reality. 'It was his right to create, but it was out of his love he created'. 'There is no way we can conceive of his wondrous goodness; he will not disappoint us, he will far exceed our wildest thoughts of goodness'

    2) Sin in individual men and women has corrupted and defiled our minds, our relationships, our culture and our world. '... we must get rid of this misery of ours. It is slaying us. It is turning our fair earth into a hell, and our hearts into its' fuel'.

    3) God's love for us has compelled him to effect a rescue. 'No evil can be cured in mankind except by being cured in individual men and women. Rightness alone is a cure. And the health at the root of a man's being is to be free from sin. I do not mean set free from the sins he has done - that will follow. I mean the sin in his being, which spoils his nature - the wrongness in him, the sin he is, which makes him do the sin he does. To save a man from both his sin and his sins is to say to him in a perfect and eternal sense 'Rise up and walk, be at liberty in your essential being. To do this for us, Jesus was born'.

    4) Our rescuer Jesus makes one over-arching demand on our lives: Turn, and follow me. 'No man is a beleiver, no matter what else he may do, except he give his will, his life, to the Master'. 'He came to do more than take the puishment for our sins. He came as well to set us free from our sin.' 'It may cost God suffering that man can never know to bring the man to a point when he wills His will. But when he has been brought to that point... the man becomes one with God, and the end for which Jesus was born and died [and lives] is gained.'

    5)The life our Savior opens to us is many faceted. 'If we will but let our God and father work his will with us, there can be no limit to his enlargement of our existence, to the flood of life with which he will overflow our consciousness. We have no conception of what life might be. There lies before me the fullness of life, sufficient to content a perfect Father, and the part of the child is to yield all and see that he does not himself stand in the way of the might design.'

    6) A warning. 'If a man refuses to come out os sin, he must suffer the vengeance of a love that would be no love if it left him there.' 'The terrible thing is to be bad, and all puishment is to help deliver us from it...God will have us good.

    The sum of these is to understand a Father of Love with an agenda for us of goodness, and understand I have a will he created and a share of my own making. The result is a real interest in spiritual/moral development.

    All quotes above are from George MacDonald, in whom I have found a view of God and salvation that motivates me toward him.