I wrote this stream of consciousness blog while I was on the plane out to San Diego last month. There’s not really much explanation necessary…The opportunity is here to align ourselves with the kingdom of God and its fullness. Asking the question, “What is church?” is actually giving ourselves permission to dream of an alternative future. The time of hand-wringing is over. The time of theological posturing is over. The house is burning, the fire alarm is ringing, it’s time to get out of our bunks, slide down the pole and go put out the fire. No one else will do it, because no one else understands what is really necessary. Those who lead the church are still not convinced the house is on fire. They believe the tide will change and their schemes will succeed. But in reality they are not prepared and never could be.Our advantage is that we are rapidly moving into a time where our mobility and flexibility will trump an organization’s ability to create a social reality. Vibrant social networks are forming without the help of traditional institutions. Our power will be through tapping into those natural social networks and spreading the kingdom virus through those means.Note that this will happen best on a local and organic level – not through translocal networks or associations. The emerging church failed as a movement because some tried to domesticate the necessary (but un-domesticatible) process of moving from the old to the new. Imagine if Jesus tried to ‘engage’ the Jewish religious establishment on their terms. No, he paid his ‘respects’ at the temple and then gathered nobodies around him who he empowered with a message – and Spirit – that created a new reality.Our gospel cannot be either ‘spiritual’ or ‘social’. Our relevance will inevitably depend on our ability to create a new basis for community – society – to exist within the worlds we live. There is no substitute for relationship. As my wife says, “Time is the only thing we really own and relationship is the only thing we can buy with it.” Our gospel business is in relationship – John on Jesus’ breast, the woman at the well, Mary’s tears. It happens there, not within our crusades or initiatives.There is also no substitute for Spirit. Kingdom does not work without Spirit. Mission is not accomplished without Spirit. Ecclesia does not exist without Spirit. If we refuse to acknowledge the absolute centrality of Spirit to this whole enterprise, we do it to our own demise. We will fail without the Spirit’s direction, empowerment, favor, comfort, leadership, and vision. Yes, vision. We really do see through a glass dimly. Our perspective is not just limited, it is almost blind. But that is by design so that we will keep returning to the only thing we really have control over – who we are and how we relate to others.Read the Sermon on the Mount. Some have tried to make the core Jesus’ message economic or spiritual in nature. But the Sermon slaps you in the face with reality: If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If you hate your brother, you might as well kill him. Don’t be an arrogant ass and pray on the street so everyone can see you. The message from Jesus strikes to the heart of why church is so largely ineffective at doing what he did with 12 nobodies. We think it’s about changing the world – He knows it’s about changing us.If we are successful at creating new community, it will be because we are taking the message of Jesus seriously and living his teachings by the Spirit. Everything else – including what happens to the world and how its problems get solved – will come out of that fountain.
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