While most of us don’t notice it, sometimes we take a position that works against our best interests. We frequently articulate our positions, sometimes loudly, without even knowing what our interests are let alone being able to explain them.
Bill Ury tells of negotiating between a South East Asian government and a guerilla group which had been fighting for their own homeland for 25 years. As he began, he asked the guerillas what their interests were—what benefits they hoped to gain. They had no answer.
They could not articulate what they were looking for: language rights, economic benefits, cultural recognition, legislative power, a seat at the UN. For all that time they had been fighting a bloody war to have their own homeland, but they didn’t know why they wanted that.
Sometimes factions develop in a church. Each states its position clearly, sometimes for years, but without knowing why they adopted it. They can’t articulate their interests.
Occasionally it might be that their interests are so selfish and flimsy that they’d be embarrassed to state them in so many words. “I just want to be comfortable until the Lord takes me home.” “I’d hate to see those young people (40 and 50-year-olds) in control.” “I’m fed up with being told I should dress like I’m going to Buckingham Palace.”
You’d think that believers would be interested in fulfilling God’s purpose for the church. It would be good if their positions on all kinds of issues, would arise from that interest.
Christians seldom think deeply about their interests. They just have them. Positions are frequently stated. Favorite preachers are forever telling them what the right one is. So they adopt a position that someone else has told them is the right one to have and never consider interests at all—not their own, not God’s.
Often people turn to Acts 2 for the purpose of the church. They point to
- teaching biblical doctrine
- engaging in fellowship
- observing the Lord’s supper
These are things the church does, but not what the church is about. These are means, not ends. That is an important distinction. If these are the “purpose” of the church, we could put it another way and just say the
purpose of the church is to be, to exist (preferably in the way
that we are used to).
The fact is that every church lives out its real purpose, even if no one is able to identify or articulate it. They couch its purpose in terms of positions and disregard the matter of interests.
In the realm of biology, we recognize reproduction as an important, even driving, interest of all of life. We don’t relate quite so well to plants, but if they weren’t busy reproducing, we probably would be pretty hungry. Some of us would starve.
Animals are seriously committed to reproducing. Anyone who has spent much time on a farm will have noticed this (as I have). A lot of ingenuity is invested and effort expended when a receptive female and an available male are within the pheromone range.
I don’t intend to consider human sexuality at all in this, other than to note that the drive to engage in reproductive behavior is a significant force for most of us, even if we find discussing it somewhat distasteful.
I do want us to think about the church as a living organism. Jesus, Himself, provided the impetus for its reproductive drive:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and Matthew 28:18-20
on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Is your church desire to multiply?
It has been legitimately noted that this command to go and make disciples predates the formation of the church. However, of whom is the church comprised? People to whom this directive was given. It would take some stretching to suggest that “the church” need not interest herself
Perhaps even sadder is that we seem to have picked up western culture’s attitudes toward human reproduction. That is, we want the activity which would normally lead to producing a new generation, but take precautions to make sure it doesn’t really happen.
Many churches which claim to have an interest in reproduction adopt positions that work against that very thing.
They stress separation from the world not just in morals and ethics but in customs and culture. Their positions on music, clothing, vocabulary, meeting styles and the like tend to push people away rather than attract them. They present an alien culture to “outsiders” which leads visitors to believe that they really don’t belong.
I’ve observed that stagnant churches tend to be consumed with conflict over cultural change. Growing churches tend to be free of this kind of conflict (though they have other challenges).
Perhaps if our interest was in making disciples, as Jesus commanded,
we’d not be so concerned about our positions!
Photo by Jordan Madrid
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.