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Saturday, May 11, 2013

When the Container Isn't Fitting For the Brew. Questions About Church.

Over the past number of months, I've been feeling a blanketing flatness.

I know it's not depression because I suffered that in the distant past. I'm not dead inside, just not intrigued by most of what I spend my time on. As soon as my rhythm of life is dominated by the managing of the routine, and predictable I fade to flat.

The worst part of it is I'm seriously not motivated by nature to administer an operation. I can do it, but not with much spark or acuity. I make sloppy mistakes, feel overwhelmed more often than is comfortable, and sometimes just flat bored.

As I've said before in my blogs, I'm most alive in the starting from scratch, what-if-ing, exploring, creating, conceptualizing, laying-the-foundations, and launching phases of an enterprise. Helping things come into view and take shape has always been invigorating, sometimes even mesmerizing. As soon as the effort solidifies into a life unto itself needing persistent managing, I wilt or begin to look out the window to wonder "what else?" Horizons always entice me.

Don't get me wrong: imagine/Northampton mostly keeps its head just above water. It's not as if it's self-sustaining or running on all cylinders. God is faithful and people care. There is life within our community, but nowhere near communitas, in my view. And there is much still to do to inculcate a true missional life in each one of us. Some are more missional than others; no one is opposed to it in our group.No one is an exemplar, including me.

But I wonder if the "container" we've unwttingly let evolve over time actually fits the missional "brew" we've said we want to make since we're nearly 5 years years into our Northampton sojourn. One of my abiding fears has been that Christian community can very easily take on a life of and for its own. We naturally develop, or by previous-codified design, implement a culture which defines how we do just about everything together, and it begins to look like church even if you have a funny name, and use marbles in your Sunday worship. By the way, I use the word church in the sense of a group dynamic which solidifies into predictable practices and norms with a life of their own.

What happens is that even if you're a small church, activities together need to be managed. Sunday worship takes center stage; projects need coordinating; people need to resources for spiritual growth. There has to be ministry and ministry leaders. Somebody's got to take care of all the background details and logistics (and they can be like swarms of gnats), or stuff falls through the cracks and the established routine is jeopardized. Everything becomes about maintaining the expected and the status quo. It just does. The structural expected and corporate status quo slowly can train most folks into sleepwalking missionally. That's not good.

So I wonder.

I wonder if there's a way to break free from the unexamined tendency to coagulate spiritually, ecclesiastically, and missionally?

I wonder if there's a way to be diffuse, but deeply together, and unified when not together.

I wonder if the "brew" requires a "container" that looks, and works as nothing at all like a container?

I wonder if there's a way to be a movement without an address?

I think my blanketing flatness is because I know intuitively the container does not fit the brew. And I think I have a notion of what might. I'm going to work on it.
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