Monday, 3 March 2014

Firm foundations & lazy longitude

Our individual lives and our church communities can be built on all kinds of foundations. In our preferences we can run after many things, many good things - but not always the main thing!

Sometimes in church life you will observe that an overly pastoral foundation has been laid. A very caring church which meets many needs and offers much in the way of support, but still manages to miss the main purpose. If the main thing is the mission of God into the broken world around us, then any over emphasis, pastoral, teaching, activist, or otherwise in the foundations of a local church can leave us shaping lives that lean away from the bright sun of our main purpose.

Elsewhere you see churches more shaped by the ever shifting preferences of our culture. It's not that surprising when we consider that our churches are made up of ordinary people like us, bringing our imperfections, our personal world views and unstable foundations into the new community. Our lives are not neutral when we come to Christ. All of the old ways of thinking need renewing, digging out and replacing with biblical foundations if we are to build well individually and corporately.

So whether it's culture, pastoral preference, binding family traditions, sinful attitudes - whatever fundamentally affects church life can knock us significantly off the course of what the New Testament considers to be recognisable and healthy foundations for a church. Where a church is way off the graph at one extreme, this is what we call a cult. Even if you hear yourself saying that this is the way we have always done things in our church - if you can't find it in the bible, it's likely that you have evolved into something that is more shaped by preference and culture. This is not just potentially harmful for individual lives, but it hugely diminishes the mission - Remember the main thing we were talking about? It's so easily forgotten!

To a lesser extreme, we can find ourselves gradually losing focus. Making lesser things the main thing, and so over a generation we become the very opposite of the people that God called us to be on this planet. We may have started out on the journey very close to the plan, but with the passing of time, and the blurred fuzziness of confused purpose, we become something very different.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe for Asia. He was heading for Japan, but because he was just a few degrees out in his longitude calculations, Columbus actually hit land in the Bahamas. We don't have to be far out of line in laying key foundations in church life. Just a few degrees over the first few miles at sea makes little difference to your general direction, but by the time you have sailed long enough, you are an entire continent apart!

Healthy churches then will heed the warning of Columbus and his dubious mapping, and search the scriptures in order to realign, recalibrate, even relay foundations. The right biblical latitude and longitude is so important, because the main thing (remember that?) is at stake. We can't afford to sail unthinkingly towards the wrong destination as so many have done before.

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