Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Lately I've been rereading an old Cutting Edge Church Planting Magazine. This article by Doug Pagitt struck me with some things that get to the heart of the church.

Here is a snippet:

Recovering True Religion
When we were first getting started with things, I had become very fond of using the verse from James, “Religion God our Father accepts as pure and blameless is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress.” I used it as a counter to the evangelical line that Christianity is a “relationship” with God and not a “religion”. I wanted to reclaim the whole religion thing. A “relationship with God” sounds very individualist and personally beneficial, but religion tends to be something else. So that was part of our conversations with each other right from the beginning.

Soon after we moved into our house, my family and I found ourselves living right next door to a family caring for two foster kids named Ruben and Chico. So we had to decide whether the phrase, “We want to be religious people who care for orphans” was a metaphor or an actuality. We had to make a decision: is it “at some point” that we are going to help orphans? Or is it, “Two of them are living next door to you; what are you going to do with these guys?” Doing actions which matched my rhetoric meant I had to do something I wasn’t capable of; I had to develop the skills and competencies as I went. Figuring out when I could develop it and when we needed to get other people engaged meant that I had to be vulnerable with others. I had to say to them, “There is something I have to do—and that I can’t do. Would you help me?” So we adopted Ruben and Chico, which has meant I’ve had to learn a lot more dependence on other people. There’s a reason that most of us don’t ever want to end up like Christopher Reeves. It’s not just the fun we’re going to miss out on—it’s the fear that I’m going to have to have someone do everything for me! That’s been the hardest part of this whole thing. Interdependence is a daily negotiation. It’s not something you decide once. It’s an ongoing process of becoming the kind of person I never would have become otherwise.

The Church as Family
That’s true in the church, too. I don’t know how to be the pastor of an inner-city church and go talk to the guy next door whose twenty-one year old son was shot and killed last night in a gang-related incident. I don’t want to do that. I come from a church background that says, “The way you become a successful leader is to figure out the things you do well, and do those things, and don’t do the other things.” Sure, that makes you a successful leader, but it’s not the only part of the negotiation. There’s also the part where you have to ask, “How do I involve other people in my life so that I grow and change and become somebody different?”

The adoption of Ruben and Chico was really formative for us for awhile, and so it had impact on the church, as well. We told our folks, “This was not a choice we ‘decided’ to make; this was a reality that we had to figure out how to live with.” It felt more like a diagnosis than a choice. “If these are the kinds of people we are—or are wanting to be—how do we deal with this reality that’s living next door to us?” In our minds there was never a moment of choice; it was simply an ongoing process of coming to grips with it. The process was less about making a decision and more about figuring out who we are, given that we’re followers of Jesus.

I too have read lately: "Find the thing that you are the best in the world at and do that." But there are so many things that must be done that we don't know how to do, and most of them are about relationships.

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