Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The fire begins to burn

The fire begins to burn, and we rush to quench it.

We had a friend with a passion for teenagers, and her passion was specifically around the music teenagers liked to listen to. She wanted teenagers to know that there were alternatives to the violence- and-sex-drenched songs produced across so many musical genres. With full support, she started a small lending library ministry on Sunday mornings at church – wheeling out racks of Christian music CDs – rap, country, rock, pop, even heavy metal (who knew?). The church teens swarmed around it.

She spent a lot of her own money to buy the CDs. She listened to each one. She staffed the library each Sunday. The teens loved it. She loved it.

Someone on the church staff took notice, and discovered that it was a ministry that was not to be found on the official organization chart. Eventually, the staff took over.

The music ministry to teens died. No one had the passion and the commitment our friend had. No one could talk to the teens about the music like she could.

Francis Chan, author of Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, might say that the church, in this case, institutionalized the Spirit out of existence. The ministry was safely on the organization chart, but it was dead.

Churches grow, add staff and managerial duties, and manage ministries. But like in any organization, the purpose of staff is partially one of control. Companies do this, non-profits do this, governments at all levels do this. And, unfortunately, so do churches.

“Instead of encouraging people who are doing courageous things for God and joining them in their discernment process of how to be faithful to what God is calling them to do,” Chan writes, “we tell them to slow down and back off.”

The fire begins to burn, and we rush to quench it.

I’ve talked before about problems we’ve encountered with churches and church organization; it’s not a problem only recently discovered by millennials. Churches can get caught up in corporate models of management, or the latest fashion or craze, as easily as the general culture can. And churches just as susceptible to the problems that result.  

Many church members want to see the status quo maintained; others want to see the status quo shaken up. It’s been my own unfortunate experience to be caught between both on more than one occasion. But they both share one central practice in common: they are both the result of human desires, aims, thought, and plans. We dress it up in the right churchy language, of course, but that’s what much of this actually is – the plans of humans.

Chan’s concern is not about one specific way for people and churches to be radical. There is no one specific way. Instead, he says, “it is both about encouraging others to obey the Spirit’s leadings and about listening to and obeying His leading in your own life.”

The fire begins to burn. What if, rather than rushing in to quench it, we simply watched it to see what might happen?

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading Chan’s Forgotten God. Today’s discussion concludes the book. To see more posts on this final section, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by Ken Kistler via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Anonymous said...

seeing and believing

Anonymous said...

"and" not "is"

jasonS said...

It is sad that we do this and no one is really immune. It takes diligence and paying attention to the Holy Spirit and how He's moving. We make snap judgments or try to "help" (which can sometimes just mean taking over). He fits and fashions the Body how He desires and He wants everyone to play their distinct part. Great reminder, Glynn. Thank you.

diana said...

I think this may be my very favorite book study you've reported here. This one just KILLS me - why would a staff stop a volunteer ministry that was working?? Makes NO sense to me. At all. But I know these kinds of things happen. I wrote about a church hero of mine at ADS today - and this woman would be on that list, in my book. Thanks, Glynn.