Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Beware the undertow.

I seem to be borrowing stuff from other people right now.

Years back when the internet was a little younger there was a forum that consisted mainly of US Christian musicians and worship leaders with just a few non-American participants. Fernando with his desk off on the left there (pun half intended) was one such. Eventually the forum ceased to function, but I've remained in contact with some of the other guys from the US too, including Mikey Mahoney, and when I read his latest blog post on personal Christian development one particular section seemed very relevant to where Heyford Park Chapel is right now.

Talking about moving in God's river, being waste deep:

Undertow is the ugly one.  You never see it coming.  It pulls your feet out from under you, pulls you down.  I’ll call this one “church politics.”  Part and parcel of having a church built of living stones is that those stones are all human.  Churches are populated with people – flawed sinners just like you and me.  And sometimes, things don’t go as planned, and the ugly comes out.  Jealousies, pride, power trips, offenses, cliques…  I’d love to say the church was immune to them, but it’s not.  Nor should it be.  The strength in the church is in it’s humanity.  But with all that comes the rough spots.  Navigating the undertow is part of what makes us better swimmers.

 Some of us were talking about being living stones last night, and how it feels like lumps are being bashed off so we can fit closer together. This carries the metaphor a bit further however. I'm not sure I agree that the strength of the church is in it's sinful and fleshly humanity, because that's often what ends up causing people to become broken and abused, depressed and discarded. But certainly a key aspect is that we are required to work things out among ourselves, and as we do that right, so we we grow in character (this makes me want to add a Calvin comment) and commitment together. And I guess too that it provides a place where those who need to flail around, to strike out because that's the only way they know to deal with things, can do that while those who have a bit more depth can keep trying to walk alongside.

But church politics is an ugly one, straight from the pit.

I've just started reading Frank Viola's Reimagining Church and it has reminded me why I left the institutional church more than 30 years ago, and why I was so horrified at having to rejoin it (and that horror was justified). But it's also reminded me of what my roots are in Christian faith, and a part of that is a church without politics, where people give themselves to serve God without owning their ministry and walk in deference to each other. I may not completely agree with Viola's view of organic church, but it's a good reminder of the places I need to go back to living as a Christian.

BTW I'd recommend reading the full series of 'Bumper Sticker Christianity' posts on Mikes blog.


  1. Thanks so much for referring to my post. I means a lot when it's part of an organic conversation.

    I don't think I was trying to say the sinful side is what makes the church great, but the HUMAN side. However, our compassion, our capacity for mercy and grace, our desire to help others all come part and parcel with the ugly, I suppose. At least until we're perfected.

  2. I'm sure you already know how much I agree.

    What I've learned since moving to the US is that church here (at least in the area we're in) is EXTREMELY political. I always gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was just a stereotype, but my personal experience is that the stereotype of church here is more real than not. And people seem to like it that way...something I can't even begin to understand. I doubt I'll ever fit into church here, but I also have doubts that I'd find enough like-minded people to do a house church or alternative church here. I'd prefer to stay in the traditional church, be a force from within and use the tradition and collective wisdom to our benefit, but the politics just get in the way of that.

    Politics and programs...that's all church seems to be around here.

  3. Thanks Mike, for clarifying. It's hard to pickup up on nuance from written language sometimes. We don't 'talk' much these days, but I very much appreciate what you say.

    Johanna, I have a good friend who spent 4 years with his family in Ann Arbour before returning to the UK. His experience of housegroups was that unlike the UK version where people often leave space and are reticent, everyone had a strong opinion on everything, and would talk at length if permitted. It's a strength, but I suspect it has a flip side, and that is probably political activity.


  4. "But it's also reminded me of what my roots are in Christian faith, and a part of that is a church without politics, where people give themselves to serve God without owning their ministry and walk in deference to each other."

    Near to weeping after a politically looong church week, I wish I wish I could be in a place like that again.
    (Heading home to hide out.)

  5. Sleep well tonight my friend.


Play nice - I will delete anything I don't want associated with this blog and I will delete anonymous comments.