I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but we live in a competitive culture. Our kids are taught to compete in school through both their sports and grades. Our business model is fundamentally built on competition. We’re quick to identify with a pro sports franchise and declaim their all the reasons why our team is better than your team.
But our bent for competing is deeper than that. Have you noticed how often someone finds something that helps them. That’s well and good, but then they bend your ear on why their diet is the best, why their favorite restaurant is better than others, why their 12-step program is better than the other 12-step programs.
For example: I’ve watched with interest as two different movements have been growing in the church. On the one hand mega churches are growing in number, size and influence in this country. At the same time, the house church movement is also growing in size and influence. The two movements are almost opposites: one is composed of churches whose membership is counted in the thousands or tens of thousands; the other aims for church populations under two dozen.
Both groups have their proponents and their critics, but I’ve noticed that the most vocal critics of both groups are most often found in the opposite group: the biggest critics of large churches are proponents of house churches; the most vocal critics of house churches are leaders of large and organized churches.
Two observations occur to me:1) We seem to be obsessed with the concept of “mine is better than yours!” and
2) We feel compelled to tell people we know why we feel this way, to convince them to agree with us.
These motivations are seldom exercised vindictively; the pastor who warns his youth group against the evils of that other denomination is usually sincere; misguided perhaps, but sincere. The elder who speaks out against that popular para-church ministry doesn’t see his words as “speaking evil” of his brothers and sisters in that ministry.
We’re awfully short-sighted. We see that this thing that I have, this group that I’m part of, is good, and we have difficulty imagining that that thing you have, that group that you’re part of, is also good. Heaven forbid that your group might be somehow “better” than my group!
The last I checked, it wasn’t “my church” or “my group.” Somebody pretty big and important said it was His church, and that He would build it. First, He is taking responsibility for both my church and yours, and second, His goal is building the church, not tearing it down.
I wonder what would happen if we took the perspective that God is working in both the house church movement and the mega churches. Would we somehow be betraying God if we acknowledged that both fundamentalist churches and Pentecostal churches were being built and led and loved by the same God that loves me. It’s possible that the One who sent His only son to die so I could live also loves that weird group who teaches strange things that I don’t understand.
One more step and we’re done. Any human being, and any human group, will be limited to human capacities: finite people cannot contain all of an infinite God (though theologically speaking, all of Him is available to each of us). One group has laid hold of one revelation of God and His kingdom, and another group has laid hold of other revelation.
I can limit myself and my experience of God to only that which my own group has figured out, or I can receive from other groups as well. Wouldn’t it be great if Pentecostal churches developed the passion for the Word that fundamental churches have, and liturgical churches developed an eagerness for personal evangelism that some evangelicals have, and combined that with an experience with the power of God that exists in the Healing Rooms movement. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a group with the intimacy and accountability of a house church, but the resources and the influence of a mega church.
I think God is moving us that direction. I’m sure He’s moving me that direction: toward participation in The Church, not just “my church.” That’s the one He’s building, anyway.