Systems, Church and People

A friend emailed me a few days ago. Here’s part of what he said:

I am grieved … by the harsh statements about “church” in your blog.  I know that I talked with you about that a year or so ago, but reading that “nothing in my experience in the traditional paradigm has caused me to doubt my exit from it over 20 years ago” really hurts. … There are so many churches stuck, but what about the ones that are moving?  Your words are discouraging to those that are moving forward, seeking the Lord with earnest hearts.

Ouch! Sounds like I have some explaining to do.

When I was a high school speech teacher I put up a poster on my classroom wall that I think applies to my friend’s email. It read, “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

I’ve been in trouble over this before. The problem comes when I don’t make sure people know that I make a real distinction between “the Church,” which is people, the body of Christ, and “a system” which is man-made.

The dictionary definition of a system is “a coordinated body of methods or a scheme, plan or procedure; an organizational scheme.” In an ecclesial setting, that means how people are managed in a group.  Now, nobody is arguing for chaos. Groups need a certain amount of structure, to make a place for relationships to happen. But structure needs to serve the needs of a people for what the Bible calls “edification.” The trick is to minimize such organization so it does no more than facilitate community. It should never dominate or hinder it.

Therein lays the challenge. More to come on that…

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