At What Cost? (#459)
While God makes himself known even through some of the silliest things we humans attempt, does his graciousness justify our lack of concern for the collateral damage our efforts may cause? After Wayne's three-part conversation with Brad, he opens up the conversation by sorting through his email and blog comments about many of the themes we've explored over the past few weeks. The written covenant story continues as does the dialog about the supernatural, counseling techniques, religious abuse, and patriarchal authority. Even when God is gracious in our misguided efforts, can we not be honest with the destruction it causes in others who become disillusioned, hurt, or diminished by the flesh of others? Can we not celebrate the good in something while at the same time seek to mitigate the damage that it does to others?
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Love that letter writer about not being the one to right the wrongs or point them out. Believe me, I’ve seen people become aware on their own, long after I left the church. Usually if you’re a solid, mature Christian, when you leave, thoughtful people will take notice and begin to see some things for themselves. They don’t always have to be pointed out. Some people will begin to pull back from activity or totally leave the church as they begin to see some things for themselves that do not jibe with a genuine expression of Christlikeness and what it means to be a called community of Christ. For those who don’t see it, maybe it’s not time yet for them to see it. Whatever the reason, trust God to take care of it and move on with whatever you know God is calling you to do and be.
On the podcast, Wayne mentioned that during his trip to KY, he had the opportunity to speak to a seminary class at the request of a long-time friend. I had the privilege of being present in the class that evening. I also had the opportunity to be present one other time when Wayne and his friend were together that weekend. Their friendship is a living example of the reality that Wayne describes in Finding Church.
Wayne and his friend have taken very different paths over the years regarding the Church. They have varying opinions about traditional congregational practices and structures. Entire denominations have split down the middle over lesser differences. Yet, the two of them exemplify a genuine love for one another that comes from above. Without being defensive, they can speak honestly with each other. Without trying to convince the other, they can encourage one another in love. As brothers in the same spiritual family, they recognize and value the heart for God that they see in each other. “Behold, how they love one another!”
It was a wonderful blessing to be reading Finding Church and, at the same time, see it lived out. The Church really is alive and well.
Ran into this mouthful and it relates so much with your thoughts, if I am hearing you correctly.
“Never confuse people who are always around you with people who are always there for you.” (Gee Linder)
I think the institutional church confuses this often by assuming, and it is a huge assumption, that being there in the group is relational, healthy, enjoyable, or that Koinonia is automatically happening because of a gathering or crowd. However, what if the people around us, and we ourselves included, are not really manifesting a desire to be there for one another?
As a former pulpit “minister” and a “missionary” in French West Africa for almost 20 years now, Sunday mornings can be a very lonely and isolated experience for many of us no matter what side of the podium you sit or stand: or even on what side of the ocean we serve. I’ll not say much because my wife and are the first and only workers in a 100% Islamic people in Mali (we never publish the nature of our work on-line only present the food security development face), but we see so much time and money invested in building structure and systems in Africa. To date, over this 20 yr span in two French West African countries we have avoided building a single church building or hiring a single “pastor”. We taught and taught and sowed Jesus and its grown to over 28 villages in our first country. But that brings criticism even from other mission workers. A lot of talk about keeping it simple, self supported etc, but few actually follow that through.
Now in this new country, we find Malians are very relational minded, so we are avoiding locking relationships into a can that shuts down interaction in the body. But its not easy when all our Muslim friends know of “church” 200 km away is a building and a service. That is what christians do, and that is what Muslims do also, with the mosque and calls to prayer five times each day.
Also hard to sell to supporters the idea of sowing Jesus and letting them decide how they will gather and express body life, when other workers supported all over Africa are pointing to the half dozen church buildings they built or pastors they support in a country already 15 to 47% evangelicals believers.
Where is the simple, economical, easily repeated by local believers? Body life does not cost much without the church structure.
Wayne, there is a cost going down this road of being misunderstood. Do we really feel sowing Jesus is enough, that his people getting together in his name and for one another is enough?
I think it is clear, that if we are not connecting with each other on the journey, there is probably little encouragement and nudging from each other occuring to keep seeking Jesus out.
Wayne, its not easy to step out and live, act, and do mission as if Jesus is enough. People want to point to buildings as signs of success, as signs of breakthrough among unreached people groups. I have no issues pointing to the shady mango tree, and the people gathered laughing and chatting there as the sign that the kingdom came to them. But so many in the box people do not compute our often “foreign language”. Our vocabulary is very different.
Anyway, you don’t need to publish this rant. Just mulling over so much today. And do be praying over this ebola fear. The histera in the west is basically bringing to a hault many things in West Africa, even in non effected countries.
Wayne, forgot….. we have learned that structure can stifle body life and vitality. However, structure and organization has its place to make some things function. About Kenya….Though I would not recommend getting into church buildings or hiring “pastors”, we know where that leads. If they want that, let the local people support that as they can and wish. However, Medical work is different. It needs buildings, proper sterilization, patient rooms for private examination, secure lock up for costly drugs. So I’d not be too troubled about Kenya. The only thing is the exit… we all set out saying we will support it until the nationals can take it over (both directing and financially) That so rarely has ever happened in Africa on the church side…. know that.. But it seems the government has a good policy in place for the health facilities. 22 months and the government will take it over. If that is the case…. do what is needed to make it to the transition point in great freedom and clear conscience. My opinion. Blessings
Hey Wayne, With regard to people getting caught up in seeing miracles, I was reading the gospel of Mark how people were bringing sick and demon possessed and if they just touched Jesus’ garment they would be healed. I wonder if Jesus wished people wanted spiritual healing as much as physical healing. Jesus forgave the paralytic of his sins before healing him physically. Was he trying to turn people’s thinking to spiritual healing?