Thursday, January 24, 2008

A bureaucracy of barrenness

Professor Barry Walters recently proposed in the Medical Journal of Australia that a lifelong carbon tax be levied on families having more than two children to compensate for the inevitable carbon footprint this extra life will stamp on the planet. Even further, he suggests carbon credits be given to those willing to embrace sterilization or a tithe to Trojan condoms. It seems this obstetrician is determined to make multiplication as difficult, joyless and fearful as the church has.

Most institutional-infected denominations have made it very cumbersome, almost discouragingly daunting, to plant churches and multiply. In effect, we have taxed the church away from her mandate—indeed her purpose and great pleasure.

I have had the privilege of walking with a “fellowship of the king” in southwestern Ontario that is trying to understand what it means to drop anchor, reject church contraception and be a multiplying kingdom community. They are incredible people who have not been afraid to raise and adjust their sails while reading the signs of the times, so we not just multiply, but have multiply-ability.

Is it time for some reproductive conversation around your potluck table?
Alan Hirsch, in his treatise The Forgotten Ways, says, “. . . we have now reached the vexing situation that the prevailing expression of church (Christendom) has become a major stumbling block to the spread of Christianity in the West.” In other words, what we have made church to be institutionally, structurally and economically, is the equivalent of championing contraceptives and sterilization over new life. We have virtually made ourselves bureaucracies of barrenness.

If we can only imagine that a real church requires a multi-function building, a “seminary-strained” pastor, denomination-speak, boatloads of committees and programs, and even our charitable status, then we may well have imagined the impossible and even worse. Since God can at least do the impossible, we may well have sterilized our own imaginations and traded faith for flummox and fear.

Can you imagine the current form of your local fellowship quickly, effectively, joyfully and with faithfulness to the Trinity, multiplying into a neighbourhood near you? Does the prospect give you a headache? Have you even talked about it? If you have, how long did it take someone to point out that the whole idea, while noble and even strangely enticing, just won’t work? Let’s be honest, what we have created is over-taxed and sterilized; we are virtually un-multiply-able.

The good news is that the problem is not the message, but the medium.

Need we be reminded that the early church multiplied quite nicely without any of the “necessities” we cling to? They had true multiply-ability. If you pay close attention to the wildness of Acts, you notice that multiply-ability is the very breath of the Spirit that often needs storms to be released. There is something inherent in Jesus’ people that will spread like wildfire if given the opportunity.

This, essentially, is what we are re-learning as a fledgling multiply-able community—to trust ourselves and our ways less and go with the DNA and fire of the Spirit more. We are asking more often: Is this multiply-able? Is what we are doing here reproducible or are we unwittingly sterilizing and over-taxing ourselves?

Is it time for some reproductive conversation around your potluck table?