Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reactionism: How our attitudes might kill our local churches…

Humans are reactionary creatures. When we confront a current issue that is damaging to something we hold dear, our disdain for its effects often lead us to do the opposite of what is being done. It is out of one ditch and into another. There are several examples I could give, but I will give two from the political world and then discuss one example from church world.

In the wake of a national tragedy that involved a gunman, many liberally minded folks have come to the conclusion that the solution is as simple as getting rid of guns. Reactionary? I would say so. Conservatives are guilty as well. Conservatives have perceived recent talks of environmental concerns to be propaganda, and because of such, they are wholly unwilling to talk about environmental concerns at all. They just say, “Everything is fine.” Reactionary? Yep.

Now, how about church world? In the wake of a collapsing Christendom project, many Christian leaders are seeing a failure in our current church model, which has historically little to no interest in missions, domestic or abroad.  A lot of rhetoric has emerged from current leadership concerns in regards to our post-Christendom context:

“We need to be more missional.”
“The church is not what just what happens on Sunday.”
“The church needs to go out.”

To this, I can only say, “Amen!” However, I feel the need to warn against reactionism. Correctives and reform do not totally replace already in place systems. We are not to replace coming together with going out. Instead, we are to make our existence more than just coming together. Our coming together should be means for us to then go out.

Now, I am not under any delusions that when churches begin to talk about “going out,” as if it is a new idea, that they will then be urged to discontinue Sunday worship service and the like. But, what can happen is that leadership focus is totally drawn away from the care of the flock and redirected solely to the reaching out to the world. This can lead to feel good church, with little care for the growth of members, but the world needs the flock to be well kept.

The writer of Hebrews urges his audience to avoid discontinuing their coming together (10:25). Now, in context, the danger was not that the church wanted to go and do something else. Instead, they were in real danger of disbanding altogether, but the principle stands:

In order to remain courageous, we must do well in coming together and lifting each other up.

Our commitment has to be to the body and then to the world. For the body is to reach out, and if they are exhausted from all the “going,” then they have no impact. Remember, reaching out can be difficult and scary. We need to be sure we are feeding the flock so they can feel empowered to go and do.

Churches must be highly aware not to allow the renewed interest in missions to take away from pastoral care. If the leadership at the church becomes overly reactionary to their excitement upon missions, then they run the risk of exhausting their efforts in what the church is called to do in outreach, neglecting the congregants. But, what the leadership might be forgetting is that their primary job is to lead the flock to reach out, not to be the only ones reaching out, which is what happens a lot of the time. The leaders either are frustrated with inactivity or are discouraged concerning how long it might take training people to go, and they instead do all themselves, using the congregants as an audience.

However, it is better to have a whole body reaching out than a small group known as the “leadership staff.”

It is best for the leadership, the congregation, and the lost world that we not become overly reactionary to all the current issues concerning our missional obligations. We must take a deep breath and keep pressing on and growing, not totally renovating and starting over.

As Christian leaders, we must remember that those who look to us for leadership need good example so that they might draw courage and strength from us (see Hebrews 12:7). Let's not ignore our bodies.

Just some thoughts as I was reading Hebrews today…