Let me talk about tribes. Having a wee bit of a Scottish background and a rough working knowledge of some of its history, I know a fair bit about clans. I know my own, I know the tartans of some, the history of some, the politics of some. Clanned Scotland was a primitive feudal society before it was united under King Ken the First. OK, so I cut out a few details, but you get the picture.
I remember my eyes glazing over for a week or two at bible college when the lecturer tried to outline the history of the church, its schisms, factions, separations and the rest. You’ll know something of the history of all that yourself. You know what? I believe Jesus is looking for us to identify as one church in one Kingdom. His long prayer in John 17 was that his people may be one. Now, we are not invited so much to join Jesus in that prayer as to ANSWER IT by being one. Jesus is not a bigamist, he isn’t returning for several brides, but one Bride.
What does that look like in reality? I don’t for a second imagine that the denominations will say, “You know what? You’re right. Lets set aside our party lines, regulations, rules and distinctions for the cause of the Kingdom.”
As I reflect on what I hope I might do on my return to Newcastle:
- I’m envisioning a church that you don’t join, because if joined to Christ you’re already joined. A community which simply has the determination to talk about Jesus and which welcomes everyone, at any time.
- I’m envisioning a church that makes a prophetic witness to the unity of God’s people by not expecting people to ‘transfer’ from other communities, but which functions as a well and a resource for those struggling with church and being open to people expressing their mission as part of other communities in the city
- I’m envisioning a church that talks and lives out Jesus’ way, and takes its cues from him as to what we’re commissioned to do in the world – he is our authority and head, not any person.
- I’m envisioning a church where everyone gets a voice and ‘everyone gets to play.’
- I’m envision a church that will see beyond man-made division and work for the building of the Kingdom across the city and that says ‘there is a weakness and a need over there….how can we pray/support/work?’ Like the story of the church in Jerusalem pleading for gifts from the other churches to help its poor, or churches calling for someone to come and encourage/teach/support, I’d like to see a generous giving and sharing church
- I’m envisioning a church which just refuses to tie itself down in complicated rules, regulations, orders, administrative nightmares and complicated systems. Who has time for that?
- I’m envisioning a church that works hard to avoid the politics that come from institution, and just gets on with being family who can talk openly about stuff concerning us without parties and factions being produced.
- I’m envisioning a church that discerns together what to do, and releases all sorts of callings to do it together
- I’m envisioning a church that pays very little for administration of denominational structures, buildings or masses of administrative staff, and which, after paying its necessary local costs, ploughs significant resources into its local community and to God’s mission in the world. A church that ensures none among the number are poor or lacking, and where possessions are shared, gifted, given and where a different sort of economics is in operation.
- I’m envisioning a church that doesn’t get hung up on styles, forms and patterns, but which simply gathers around the table to break bread, encourage, pray, learn, support, love and do mission together
You know, you can’t reimagine this stuff without people reading and getting upset, showing their ingrained tribalism, or advancing all their arguments legitimising the perpetuation of effectual disunity. I guess that just shows how much this is an issue. Mission suffers, discipleship suffers, the body of Christ suffers.
What would it mean to refuse to bolster the artificial cracks amongst God’s Kingdom people?
What if we stopped talking about your church and my church, but about the church which happens to meet here, there and in other places?
How could I establish a sacrificial church which is content to send its people wherever they need to go to fulfil what God is saying through them?