Monday, March 8, 2010

Form Without Presence

During the time of Jesus the temple faith possessed all the right forms, liturgies and rituals but those things became ends in and of themselves. The temple religion was practiced in order to sustain and reinforce the temple religion. We don't read any stories about Second Temple Judiasm that come anywhere close to resembling those of the first temple or the Tabernacle where the presence of God was manifest and revealed. It seems as though they had all the forms without the ultimate goal of those forms.

I think this is an easy trap for us today in the modern church. The questions about church, how to make the church work, how to keep the church running, how to make the church relevant, how the church can grow, or even how the church can be more biblical can lead us down a similar path. It's as if we think that when we find the magical church pill all will suddenly be well with the world. Over the last 40 years trend after trend promises to make the church what God originally intended. Nowhere is this currently more prominent than in the organic church or house church movement. Don't get me wrong I'm not philosophically opposed to these forms. There is much value to them. However there is no secret formula within. We won't find in them the perfect way, the ideal set of practices or the magical liturgy (yes even house churches have a form of liturgy) that will make it all well with the church. But all of our questions about how to get the church right simply reinforce our church infatuation. I think we love to talk about the church more than the God of the church.

Sadly the "missional" conversation has been turned into one that is primarily about how to be the church. But missional is not about the church. It's about God, the Father's sending love, the Son's incarnate sentness and the Spirit's sent breath. Missional is about presence, the reality the God is with us, not about how to get church right.

I used to think that there was an answer to the question: what is the biblical model of the church?Now I see how that question is like a dog chasing its tail. There are many "right" ways to do things. When I learned this truth about life, I relaxed in my pursuit of an ideal form and I realized that when we learn to pursue the God of the church, the "right" way for us will arise.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


James Bell said...

Your blog reminded me of the comment made by the lady greeting the pastor at the church door after the service, "Your message made me think. Pastor. Don't ever do that again!"

We need to be re-think some of our concepts from time to time to stay aligned with Holy Spirit's purpose. The church is horizonal enhancement to the vertical, life-giving flow. Important? For sure. Necessary? Absolutely. But always enlivened by, and dependent upon, a personal intimacy with God.

Like your blogs, btw....

Unknown said...

Really good thoughts, Scott. But if this is all true, it's going to make a lot of books and conferences moot.

Scott Boren said...

Mike, I actually think that most books and conferences are exactly that. We spend so much time examining the fruit of the tree trying to figure out the characteristics of that fruit and what makes good fruit, etc. All the while we are missing the fact that the root system, the soil, etc. is where we need to focus our attention.