When something is well-managed, people say things like, “That’s a well-oiled machine.” “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” “Tidy and clean and safe and running smoothly.”
Is this something we want said about “church?”
In some ways, maybe yes. For example, if a church family gathers weekly and has a kids ministry, parents appreciate a well-managed kids ministry. Another example might be when a team is sent to serve with mission partners. Those connected to the ones going to serve appreciate knowing that all logistics are well-taken care of.
Don’t take this suggestion in dualistic fashion. It’s not an either / or kind of thing, because some elements of how a church family functions need to be managed well for effectiveness and purpose sake. However, do we need to make everything manageable?
The problem with making everything manageable is that it leaves little room for the mystical.
Before you freak out about the use of the word “mystical,” think about it. Wanting who we are and how we are functioning as the “church” to be described as mystical simply suggests that as we are functioning as Christ’s church, we relate with and experience the supernatural, resurrection-power, beyond-human-effort, only-explained-by-the-movement-of-the-Holy-Spirit, ever-present living God. Don’t you want that?
Here are two vital ways that we should want mystical rather than manageable:
- in how people are learning and living the ways of Christ
- in how people are making disciples as they go
Do we want how people are learning and living the ways of Christ to be limited to what human leaders can manage? I don’t!!! We must not make disciples of ourselves. We want to point people to Jesus as their teacher, the same teacher that the leaders themselves have.
And do we want to limit how people are learning and living the ways of Christ to a specific space (a church building) at a specific time (once a week)? I don’t!!! People growing in Christ is hopefully a 168 hour a week experience, which necessitates a process beyond what human leaders can manage.
Most transformational conversations and experiences in the lives of Christ-followers happen between sermons and small groups, not just inside of those times and events.
Furthermore, if someone is learning and living the ways of Christ, i.e. growing as a disciple of Jesus, then they WILL be compelled to invite others along with them to learn and live the ways of Christ, i.e. make disciples of Jesus.
Do we want how people are making disciples of Jesus to be limited to what church leaders can manage? I don’t!!! If that were the case, then all disciple-making would be limited to the schedule and the teaching and the learning and the relationships of a small handful of people rather than a collective of the entire church family.
Wait. Wait. Re-read that last sentence. Isn’t that the norm for most of those who consider themselves “churched” today? No wonder we don’t see a movement of disciple-making!
“Church” MUST be more than something we invite people to! It is, according to the New Testament! And do you know why it is? Because “church” is not what we are trying to get people to. Christ is.
I understand that “church” is a way people can meet Jesus. However, the New Testament never, ever refers to “church” as a place or event. Therefore, people cannot be invited TO church. They can only be invited ALONG with the church.
This is vital. Why?
Because people best discover Whose they are in Christ by being invited along with others who have and are continuing to discover Whose they are in Christ. While we ourselves are continuing to believe our God-given identity and grow in our Christ-given security and live out our Spirit-directed purpose, we invited others along in hopes of also believing and growing and living in Christ.
That is not easily managed, because it is not manageable. When many Christ-followers are growing as disciples of Jesus and making disciples of Jesus in their daily rhythms and everyday relationships, the learning and experiencing and discovering and loving and living and transforming and sending that happens is not manageable by a small group of leaders.
It is, rather, by those leaders, encouraged and equipped for and related with and released beyond personal control.
We need to hope for the Spirit’s mystical involvement in the everyday, purposeful, intended functioning of the church! And if it happens, manageability will be next to impossible.
We may need to repent of trying to stay a step ahead of the Spirit and instead try to keep up with the Spirit. We may need to repent of trying to move something ourselves and instead live wind-blown by the Spirit together.
When the church is functioning as Jesus intended, we are not like suburban landscaping. We are not tidy and well-manicured and low-maintenance and chemically-controlled. We are messy and unfinished and interdependent and Spirit-controlled.
Lord Jesus, please do something among Your church that moves beyond our control and can only be explained by Your presence in the everyday of our lives.