Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Just who's 'vision' is it anyway?

These excerpts are a bit longer, but raise some interesting questions in regards to how 'church' is done in America and maybe more importantly, how it is lead.

Sarah Rooney posted a link to her husband's blog that really snapped me back into reality today. It is a video excerpt of people trying to escape from North Korea into China.

I have been mulling over this post for a while, so hopefully it comes out right.

Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together :

"It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us..."

"One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. ...Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood."

"Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a 'wish/dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams... By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream... A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish/dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive."

"He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even thought his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary idea of community demands that it be realized by God, by other, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself."

I really don't have much to add, but what Bonhoeffer has to say does raise a lot of questions.

For example:

If the churches of Bonhoeffer's time became mired in the political arena and ultimately had to swear allegiance to Hitler, then where does that leave the churches in America who have bound themselves so closely to the Republican/Conservative Party? Does that mean the churches endorse killing, torturing, and holding prisoners to fight terrorism? Even if the torturing and imprisonment scandals turn out to be false, is that what the Kingdom of God and Jesus should be considered advocating?

If Bonhoeffer is right about God not being a fan of visionary dreaming, where does that put the visionary pastor? What happens to the pastor who has a vision or mission statement when it doesn't work out?

Of the multiple churches that have split while I have attended, Bonhoeffer's words are spot on.

At what point did we become so arrogant that we thought we had a better plan than Jesus modeled?

I think it happened when the church leaders wanted their numbers to grow internally, instead of equipping to go out into the world.

I think maybe it happened because the more people who are inside the walls doing things means more money in the coffers instead of out with the people who need to hear about God the worst. If the people are trained up to go out and work on their own, what happens to the professional church staff?

I'm sure you have your own questions and maybe even answers to mine. I would like to hear them, so fire away!


Sarah said...

Those are good questions. I think that people generally have good intentions and are simply following what has been 'modelled' to them by previous leaders/generations. They do what they've been taught is the 'right' thing to do. So, while an emphasis on church growth probably hinders kingdom growth - it's all they've been taught.

If anyone has greater revelation and understanding about things than the current status quo - then that is really just the grace of God. I know for myself that I have been misguided in many ways in the course of my life (with great intentions) simply because I was a product of American church culture. God still loved me the same. He was merciful enough to give me some better revelation and insight (He continues to show me a better way, all the time, in fact.) This is a process...

Everyone is on a journey, and I have learned not to disqualify people or write them off just because they may not be where I'd like them to be. Jesus didn't exclude people based on their level of understanding - He talked to pharisees and sinners alike. He's not exclusive, but inclusive. I want to be inclusive too - hoping for the best for everyone.

Granted, I didn't always feel this way. Sometimes one must overcome cynicism after witnessing some pretty ugly stuff in the church....

Mike Ross said...

You say that greater revelations are the grace of God, and initally I agreed with that, but as I started to type it, something else came to mind. In saying that some are given greater revelations than others, isn't that like gnosticism? Maybe I'm wrong.

Jesus did talk to Pharisees, and he called them sons of the grave and other scathing names. I don't know if we are called to make such remarks, but for me it raises the following questions: If Jesus' invitation was inclusive, which I believe it was/is, then why do we have him saying such things to the Pharisees?

Mike Ross said...

Concerning my question about gnosticism: Or when you say that it is really just the grace of God, do you mean that if we see him out we all have access to those greater revelations and understandings?

If that is what you meant, then absolutely I agree with you. I think my issue is with those in leadership positions who continue to promote things that are extra-biblical as being necessary and required.