The Irish Republican Army was orginally supposed to "ignore" the British Empire into submission. We all know it didn't turn out that way, but let's imagine for a second that the founding idea was still worth mentioning in polite conversation.
And I have likened the denominational hierarchies of Christianity to the British Empire. For sake of convenience, let me define denominational hierarchy as any Christian relationship defined and documented in a legal contract form. Yes, that includes vice presidents, deacons, orders of worship, statements of faith, and missionary callings. And foremost, it includes church membership rolls.
I realize there will be some argument against my definition of paper as the enemy, but I think it's pretty close. The real enemy of the church is the flesh of each of her members. I attack paper because it's our generation's go-to defense for our flesh. Lurking behind every piece of paper you'll find a sin waiting to happen. Whether it's the church budget allowing greed, the bylaws enabling sloth, the calendar supporting procrastination, or the membership roll feeding pride; red tape is always the first defense of the bureaucrat and the cheapest ammunition to fire at messengers of the Spirit.
Here is my proposal.
Ignore all paper in the church.
Statement of Faith? Burn it. Bylaws? Owe all men nothing but love; against such there is no law. Denominational missives? Chaff. Membership rolls? Printed lies.
For anyone who wants to play along at this, doing it will not be easy. Salguod hit it square on the head in his comment on my first post.
Ignoring the establishment while standing in it is hard to do, and not for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to feel disconnected, outside the mainstream, misunderstood and just a little bit odd. Most folks can't stomach that, and instead go to find somewhere they can belong.
I understand. It's getting hard for me too. In my youth, I carried this feeling with me everywhere I went, and used it as a neurotic defense mechanism. These days, I'm starting to enjoy this thing of being accepted and acceptable. I must be getting older. A couple weeks ago I was cornered into telling my pastor I'd not be signing up as a member. I experienced a new feeling, and a rather unpleasant one. I felt unhappy about being a troublemaker and a strange person. Oddness has always been something of a badge of honor for me, and feeling uncomfortable as the odd man out was decidedly healthy.
And yet, I think this might be worth the trouble.
You see, here's what might happen if we ignore all the paper in the church.
We might remember that people are the only thing in the church that matters. We might start thinking that being found helping each other is more important than convincing each other of anything. We might start respecting each other for maturity of love, instead of maturity of doctrine; holding the hurting instead of holding offices; being bound to brothers instead of being bound to definitions. And we might stop reading about people "shopping" for churches.
I know there's no current example for this. I know there's no church out there that keeps nothing written down on paper. Still, there just might be a little thing arguing in favor of living without bureaucracy - the family.
Can you imagine life if America reinvented the family right now?
I'm new to the Columbus area, and I'm looking for a new family. Any good suggestions? I'm comfortable with old stuff, so I don't need a lawyer family, or anything like that, but I don't want a "rusted out '72 Vega" family either. But they can be into '70's music, 'cause retro's seriously hip these days. And they can't be into spanking, 'cause I won't let anyone touch my kids. But great holidays are a must. I can't stand those families that downplay Xmas.
How long would it be before we invented a contractual definition of the family? No one wants to commit their lives to anything that might change, right? But God didn't protect us against change, and so we go on fostering unprotected love between genetically related people. God thought it was enough that we shared the same parents for us to be brothers.
So how about copying that plan in the church and see where it gets us?
The bible gives us plenty of ways to know when someone is not in the family. We don't need to invent a statement of faith and membership roll to be sure.
In Pt 3 I'll try to list some ideas about how to bloom where you're planted.