Churches are notorious for their parties…aren’t they? No, not your nibbles and drinks parties or some such event. I’m talking about the little entrenchments you get. People gather around particular theologies, ideologies, outlooks, expectations…and more. I think I’ve come across this everywhere I’ve ever encountered the church…it seems endemic. However, it is not much different from the sharp divisions we see in our wider communities in these days.
Some of this fracturing can be grounded in generational differences, churchmanship, the strongest cultures that shout loudest, or they can even have their roots in class, educational background or some other external cultural infuence.
Left unresolved, this can lead to a myriad of voices expressing, in various grades of strength, their own narrow preferences. New music – old music. Organ – band. Expository preaching – themed preaching. Tradition – relevance. Commitment – consumerism. You get the idea ( I could go on…)
This can lead to an impasse where no one listens to each other. Sides become entrenched. Unspoken rivals or even enemies are made as the battle of the wills play out. Some wade in, others fade away. This is what happens when you put a whole load of humanity in one community.
This was not outside the experience of the apostle Paul when you look at the early chapters of 1 Corinthians. In Corinth, factions had developed. One of them even called themselves after him! He was for none of it. He declares ‘Paul, Cephas and Apollos….we’re nothing….we didn’t die for you…we’re not it’ and, by consequence, neitheir did whatever was perceptively discintive about these men mattered either, and would not serve the church’s growth if the ruts were dug in deeper.
Paul tells them to get a grip and establish Christ at the centre. This is the key for breakthrough. His firm belief throughout his writings that if Christ is in the right place, everything would flow. Sometimes that sounds idealistic and maybe even unrealistic, but what other choice is their for the community of Christ than to put Christ first and learn from there?
I don’t think it would be at all incongruous if the church was known for the right kind of party. Imagine a community which often had something to celebrate because of the glorious unity in diversity it found, that produced an attractive and magnetic community where new life was springing up everywhere?
Maybe we all need to dream a little wider than our blinkers allow, peek over the wall, stretch out a hand and just see what God will do.