Living Together in Grace
Wayne has moved and is a bit overwhelmed with a fried hard drive and a not a little torqued by ongoing government sell-out to the Wall Street bankers. Brad helps him through all of that and through some listener email they focus on how brothers and sisters can share life together with grace. It isn't something we can create, but we can recognize it and participate in it as God brings it into our lives. This life is lived best as we celebrate what God gives, rather than trying to get God to give us what we want. [The book Wayne recommends on the podcast (pictures at left) is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrations by Jago.]
you are strong when it comes to live out of the love of the father. What an important message! Crucial but neglected! It’s the miracle of ‘The Shack’ to open the eyes for the deep love of the father, his compassion, his deep caring. ‘God’s love’ ceases to be just a statement. For me it became a heartfelt reality, more than ever before, in the aftermath of reading the book and living with this new perspective.
And it’s a prophetic call, which is uttered by you and all those who emphasize that it’s all about relationship – healthy relationships.
But after listening to a couple of your pods, I see a downside in your thinking and understanding, a heavy lopsidedness.
An example, you mentioned marriage once:
Marriage is a relationship – as well as an institution!
There is a whole bunch of laws surrounding it. It has a place in the corpus iuris, the law, it has a time, an ‘instituting’ moment and act and a de-instituting moment.
And if you are married, you will ‘institute’ several rituals, such as having dinner together, spending time out, having holidays together.
Of course, the family is also an institution with rights, times and schedules, responsibilities (you hate that word and couldn’t find it in your bible: search for ‘faithfullness’ there, for instance, or ‘husbandry’).
Even the times out with your buddies have to be ‘institutionalized’ to a certain degree: you will meet them on a weekly basis for jogging or the pub, or at several times in the year, if they are long-distant. You might decide only loosely when to meet, in spring or summer etc. nevertheless you have to find time and place, and that in a regularity whatsoever: you have to INSTITUTE a place in time and space, even for your friendships. If there is just spontaneity, you will drift apart, when time goes by.
Either relationship or instition? Actually, those are wrong alternatives – they are NOT alternatives.
It’s as if you talk about a humanbeing being either body or soul.
And what about Jesus? Did he found an institution? Of course he did. As soon as there is a group of people, you have find a place in time and space, where you meet and rejoin. They had someone who taught them and lead them, a man called Jesus. His authority in the group was ‘institutionalized’; it wasn’t questioned at every crossing whether to go to Jerusalem as Jesus wished or to Eilat for hottub bathing, as some disciples might have wished (I would have, at least). And they had someone who was (I know, it’s a bad word:) responsible for their money.
When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, did he tell them: farewell, and possibly we will meet again, maybe somewhere in Samaria, maybe somewhere in Gallilee, or perhaps in the desert? Or did he institute a time and a place, where they would meet?
Jesus called Paul into his service, quite personally. And Paul ran around, telling people about Jesus – and told them also: come together regularly! And put some money aside for the poorer guys in Jerusalem. Don’t start your meetings wildly! Wait for those who couldn’t show up as early as some others among you! Listen to those who are mature enough to teach you! – What do you think, was that? Ain’t nothing to do with ‘institutionalizing’?
Yes, as soon as you have something established, there might those powerbrokers show up; Paul calls them wolves. And there will be arguing about whom to follow: Paul or Peter or … .
And yes, we need checks and balances over those in charge or those who are not in charge, but heavily ambitioned; otherwise the powerbrokers in whatever disguise or pretense might take over and pursue their agenda. Therefore we need mature believers, not leaning against the big mouthy guys. People who know what they believe and why. People who live loved by Abba.
Instituionalized gatherings can become pretty messy in a fallen world, even if consisting just of two: even as marriages.
What then shall we do? Getting rid of them alltogether? Being all spiritual? Like a human being: get rid of the messy body, and you will be all spirit. But there is a downside to the ‘spirit’-‘ual’ approach: you have no interactive presence in the world. We call those spirit humanbeings commonly dead – while they are pretty much alive. But they lack an interactive presence in this world, don’t they?
That’s also true for your brand of all-spiritual Christianity or ‘following Jesus’, or whatever you call it: you have no presence in the world.
Well, you dohave actually, but mostly because you utilize institionalized forms. Even your website is one. When you hold a seminary or preach: how often do you make use of ‘established’ places, maintained by the – what I sense, a bit looked down on – ‘institutionalized’ church. (And please don’t forget: a housechurch, meeting regularly, is an ‘institutionalized’ entity as well!)
Church might be messy, but there is no other way to reach the world with the gospel: you need forms, regularity, good input for quite a time. Otherwise, the message couldn’t be absorbed. It will make no dent.
And, did’t Jesus tell his boys: Go, tell it on the montains …? (He put it slightly differently, I know; it’s because it’s hard to ‘institionalize’ something up there 😉 …)
So Wayne, I tell you this: you react so allergic against ‘instituionalized’ because you are still hurting pretty much. Others didn’t live up to your expectations, perhaps you didn’t.
There is stuff in your shack. How about getting reconciled with all that stuff? This world needs the gospel. Of course, the relational one; because there is no other. So, the world needs the church, which is of course relational. But it’s constantly jeopardized being spoiled by sin, by ‘institutionalized’ sin, even by sin with a ‘holy’ face. Nevertheless the church is without alternative.
It’s the body of Christ in this world, his body’s place in time and space. Often abused. Often hijacked. But still as much needed for the gospel in this world as your body is to interact with your wife and your granddaughter. Create a better model, if you can. Improve it. Remind the church, as you do: it’s all about relationship! It’s all about love! – But don’t skip it alltogether. Even don’t handle it disparagingly. Please give it a thought.
I tried to respond personally to you, but the email address you left came back as undeliverable. So I’ll respond here and hope that you read it:
I approved your post, because I thought it a perspective others need to hear.
But I can tell you havenâ€™t listened to too many podcasts. You make many accusations and insinuations here that are not true of us or what we share. Our angst with the â€˜institutionâ€™ is not a blanket condemnation of all organized gatherings. Our concern is with the system of religious obligation that diminishes the gospel into rules and rituals and keeps people from embracing a transforming relationship with the King. You wouldnâ€™t have to listen long to know that we are not against the organized part of organized religion, but the religion part, where human effort is substituted for Godâ€™s life.
And it is way to cheap to dismiss that point of view by claiming people believe what they do because they are still hurt by bad experiences. To the best of my knowledge Iâ€™m not carrying any hurt from past â€˜churchâ€™ experiences. In fact, on the whole my church experiences were far more fun than painful. But even the fun didnâ€™t open the door to people experiencing HIM! And we hear that from everywhere.
And we do see God gathering brothers and sisters in ways that have profound impact on the world. They do not lack for presence, and it is a better kind of presence. The world isnâ€™t beating down the door of our Sunday morning meeting houses these days. But they are listening to men and women who have come alive in Jesus and who know how to love them where they are. Itâ€™s not the kind of presence the NY Times would cover, but I think it is all the more powerful for that reason.
So if I could say anything in response, please try to listen to what weâ€™re saying before you jump to conclusions that turn out to be wrong….