The first day of the convention ends with tired eyes and a mind racing with questions, ideas, and concerns. I sit here with a heart full of options and ideas and a brain trying to compute all of the data, discussion, and debate that has gone on. For me, this night is not one that brings up bitterness or anger. It brings me no cynicism or malice. It brings no frustration or strife. For me it brings hope. It worries me because I have played the role of the cynic too many times and I am now the person who I would once be cynical of. I am the glassy eyed dreamer, who sees a future of hope and love. I see so many things coming together. It’s exciting and scary all at once. This night has been one of refreshed ideas, revelatory concepts, and dangerous ideas and it all started with a djembe player who was off beat.
The first meeting consisted of a few well intentioned worship songs and a wonderful communion time. I at least thought the communion was great because it was one of the first times in a long time that I truly got to be reminded of the sacrifice of my Saviour. Normally I have an instrument in my hands and don’t get to even partake in the elements until afterwards and at that point I am running over to kids church. This was nice. To just sit back and remember and pray. We then moved into at time where we got to basically listen to four people have a discussion about the changes in the christian church. We spoke of Christendom and the emergent movement. I took down my favorite quotes. Then we moved on to the group discussion. This part was where the beginnings of the magic took place. The first thing of many to be discussed was the trend throughout history for visions and missions to become establishments that trade their vision for maintenance. The biggest part of the discussion was how we could avoid this. This is something that has happened throughout history and we wondered if it was possible to avoid this. Perhaps it is just the nature of things. That a vision will turn into the establishment until a new revolution will bring up a new idea. Or perhaps it’s something that can be fought, something that can be changed. I mean, the first church made it almost 300 years before becoming an organization, which as something that was forced upon us. So, how do we avoid this? It seems that the place where visions and movements become organizations is when things start to become comfortable. When you have to work hard you are constantly reminded of your mission. When things get comfortable you stop thinking as much about the vision and you think far more about keeping things comfortable. Comfort is the cancer that is killing both our culture and our churches. It fits even into the picture of the first church. The church was faced with hard problems. When Constantine established the Christian church things got easy. Things got comfortable. They might have been wrong, but it was okay because it was comfortable. There is also the inclusion of commercialism into the church. This is hugely apparent in the church growth movement. Places like Willow Creek turn faith into a product to get people to accept it. This works, until the person gets to the discipleship phase. Then someone brought up something interesting.
In biblical times when an organization or idea got off its purpose, it was the prophet that corrected the leaders. They would be the ones who would become critical of the system to keep it on the vision that God gave to it. It is this role that seems to be missing in the church. We have super pastors who lead with iron fists and no one willing to tell them they might be off, when it is the biblical model for there to be someone in that role. This, plus a good dose of humility, a situation that leaves people uncomfortable, and a true dedication to the love of Christ seem to be key in keeping the vision alive and beating in any movement.
We then moved on to drink wheat beer and talk of personal experience with college, God, churches and life. We talked of cynics and hopelessness. We talked of sitting and discussion without action. Most importantly we talked of love. Unconditional love for all, even those who hurt us, those who take advantage of us, and those who abuse the church for profit or personal gain. We shared pains and frustrations, fears and dreams. It was a wonderful night full of discussion, tears, laughter, that’s what she said, and alcohol. I find our group is the perfect blend of cynics, hopefuls, liberals, conservatives, and beaten-downs with enough personal stories to fill a night with deep conversation, true emotions and mounds of joyous laughter.