Wednesday, January 07, 2009
It's time I think, to write my treatise on this whole church subject.
I don't think Christians should fight...not about doctrine, not about anything. I personally think that Jesus did a really good job of being God, of being "spot-on" doctrinally, and of telling the right people they were right and the wrong ones they were wrong at just the right times. I don't think I can be as good at everything as Jesus was, and I don't think I can come up with a perfectly relevant and accurate doctrine to fit any and all situations a good 2000 years after most of the Bible was written, so I try to stick with one overarching life commitment and work hard to do it well. While there are many doctrines and belief systems I could work to embrace and argue about, I stick pretty closely to "Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself" and also to the actual job description Jesus gave himself in Luke 4; the stuff about preaching good news to the poor and freeing the captives and stuff. That seems to keep me pretty busy, and so not only do I not agree with the fighting, I don't have the space for it in my life.
Thus it happens that when folks around us start their power struggles, infighting and these arguments that inevitably lead to factions, betrayals, slander and a whole host of other evils (and I must say, for their claims that they never intend divisions, they sure find a lot of creative ways to justify them), The Hoffs tend to just get quiet. We make great efforts not to take sides when lines are drawn except for how it eventually just happens that one group leaves and we're left with the other side. I'm sure that looks like we're taking sides. But what we actually do during that time is go to work trying to find and bind up the broken hearts. We listen and wipe tears. We nod our heads a lot and say that we felt that same thing and we cried last night too so we understand. We speak freedom and affection to people who must go and courage to those who must stay and always we tell them that our God is still good and that the Holy Spirit will lead them rightly so they should trust His leading still. And as for the ones who started the fight, we get pretty frustrated with both of them, but we try to speak freedom and love there too. We think that's what Jesus would be doing, and so we're happy to do that and stay generally quiet about the rest. For the most part.
There is one troublesome part to this approach, and that is that it can tend to makes us look blind, maybe unintelligent, definitely unimformed...to both sides. And even that would be fine with us except for the fact that we hope someday others (especially those in church leadership) will take a look at the life example we are trying to set and maybe start doing things differently themselves. Maybe love sacrificially a little more and struggle for control a little less. And if they think that we're blind, stupid simpletons, they won't ever consider our approach. So it was today that when another thinly veiled accusation of our "uninformedness" (I'm making up words now) came, and when I found my high school girls surprised tonight at my understanding and insight, I decided it is probably time to write a gentle but direct treatise.
We are not uninformed. We are not simpletons. We just happen to believe that there is a better way to do all these things than the way they have been done and (do I give away too much startegy here?) my husband and I consciously wage a tenacious and quiet war against the "principalities and powers of this world" by showing instead of telling.
One chilly Sunday morning in February of 2004 we, in a way that befits all good "God stories", found ourselves quite suddenly and joyfully amongst a small fellowship of beautiful like-hearted believers. We talked and prayed and sang and then ate soup together in a pretty house out in Eagle Crest. Most of us were near or perfect strangers that day. The next Sunday our numbers increased and it was officially decided. Surely we were more than the small bible study that had been intended for there were too many of us already and so many more earnestly looking for just such a home. Oasis Christian Fellowship was born. As I write this now, the pictures and faces and memories are so vivid that it's tempting to reminisce, but that would only serve me, not my treatise or anyone reading it, so I refrain. (They're really powerful, joyful, laughing, courageous pictures though).
The passing of 6 lightning fast months found our little church plant in one small pod in Lava Ridge School and then in short order, the gymnasium. It also found the Hoffs sitting on couches in a little cabin at Elk Lake dreaming and planning and gouging out the values, mission statements and practicalities of a growing, flourishing body with 4 other dearly loved and trusted couples.
(OK. The pics were just too irresistable!)
I came across the notes from that weekend full of meetings the other day, and that's why I start my discussion with this history. I was there when Oasis was shaped, and I know better than most what it was built upon. I still have the notes if you'd like to see them. (My history and knowledge actually goes back quite a bit further, but how much credibility does one girl need...geez.) I was there last week when Oasis was officially declared a defunct entity, and I've been there for every incredible twist and turn between. And in case you haven't heard, our family will be there next week when a tattered and torn remnant of what was once called Oasis (I actually think we're the only originals left now...wait, no. John and Sue were there) takes its courageous first steps into a revolutionary church paradigm called by the prosaic and unassuming moniker- "City Church". The courageous fellas who are behind this church plant don't really want to hear me calling their body "the tattered and torn remnants of Oasis", but guys, if we've learned anything, we've learned that it doesn't serve us well to deny or cover up what's true. And that's true no matter how many times we start and re-start. We have all been impacted by what was Oasis. We have all endured much. And I don't find it so awful to be that scroungey remnant, because after all, haven't we been "given this Treasure in jars of clay?" I digress.
The point I wish to make here is this. I was there then and I am here now and I will make the argument that the things that were foundational to that trusted group of Oasis planters are the exact same things that are foundational to these City Church planters. Now you're calling me a heretic, right? Nope. The loud and ringing gong that was played in our auspicious beginnings was this: "We want to do church differently. We don't want to base it on traditions, we want to base it on Christ alone. We don't want to do it the way it's always been done, and "if we can't do it different, we won't do it at all. We'd rather close the doors." That last bit is a direct quote that was repeated soooo many times. You remember that right? How about this one. "We are called to be a church on mission". Come on, you must remember that one? Remember how it took us in that very first year to Banda Aceh, a muslim stronghold in desperate need after the tsunami, then to Ottino Wah to help orphans in Uganda, on to Mexico, back to Aceh and around the corner to the PRC, Willing to Help and Sparrow? I have to ask how these are any different than our City Church's dreams and hopes and determinations. The original entity stated "we don't want to do it the way it's already being done", the new entity says "we don't want to be required to base our beliefs and values on traditions". The original said "we want to be 'on mission' ", the new one says, "we're a 'missional'" church. The original said, "we seek to "declare Jesus' fame and reveal His glory", the new one says, "we want to be known as "Christ followers". How are these different? And yet, isn't it fascinating, how nearly 1200 people have spent 2 years disagreeing, wounding, gossiping and slandering one another over it? Fascinating. Unbelievable, really.
My sincere apologies, dear readers. I must pause here... I have kindergarten and 5th grade classes I must get to. I have a bit more written already, but as I peruse it, I find that this is certainly a good place to have to stop and ponder. I don't think very many people are thinking very deeply these days about the things I just brought up. I'll post my next volume as I get it written. There is much more. How much shall I say, really? I haven't decided for sure yet.