Imagine being a member of a loving and healthy extended family. Every Christmas time, the extended family gathers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Gifts are exchanged. Carols are sung. A meal is taken together. Love is renewed. Hearts are touched. Generations are connected. History is shared, Stories are told. A good time is had by all. Even crazy Uncle Eddie, who annoys everyone and never shuts up, finds a few moments of love and tolerance through others learning to . . . grow in love and tolerance!
Would you call that gathering a “meeting?” Of course not. Why not?
Because when a family gathers, it is not a “meeting.”
(Geek alert!) Imagine trying to run a Windows only specific application on a MAC OS 10 operating system. What would be the outcome? Without some helpful “mediating software,” it wouldn’t run. It’s no different in “church world.” Many of the frustrations and dysfunctions experienced within “Christianity” are due to trying to get God’s kingdom to operate on a platform that He will never allow it to run on. In fact, He resists (James 4:6 KJV “resists”- dresses himself in battle array against) “successful implementation” because He is interested in raising up a family, not franchising an organization. He wars against all efforts that hinder His family from coming forth, even the well-intended efforts of the innocently ignorant.
Organizations have “meetings,” families are attracted to each other because they are . . . family. The bond of relationship and love compels them to gather. Now, every family gathering by stark definition might technically be a meeting, but not every meeting is necessarily a family gathering. The bond of familial affection is what makes the difference. “Let’s go kids, it’s time to go to church, it’s meeting time” is not a kingdom bond of family. It is not God’s ekklesia.
In organizational/institutional and in so-called “organic” Christianity, the “meeting” has fatally substituted for family. God’s kingdom operates on heart-driven, love-equity in a family, not by meeting-driven associations, pulpits, projects, and programs.
God’s ekklesia is constituted of family members: brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc., not “office holders” (Where in scripture is the word “office” even used?) CEO’s, administrators, facilitators, authorities, governors, clergy, etc. Those things are necessary to run an organization, not a family. God’s family is ordered, but it is ordered through gift-recognition and the freewill gift-exchange of love, honor, and service not mandates and policy. Many of our woes are self-inflicted by the paradigm we willingly choose to live in, a captivity of our own making.
It could be said, “We are all family in Christ.” In an ultimate spiritual and metaphysical sense, that’s true. I am not talking about that.
The problem is, a family without real affection for each other (what the Greeks called storgé -familial love) is not a real family. It is not authentic. There is a “legal bond” that comes from a legal identity, but there is no real affection. So in a forensic sense, it is a family, but in an emotive sense, it is anything but that. Since everything in the kingdom operates relationally through love (in all it’s forms agapé, philéo, storgé), if love is absent, by definition, it’s not authentically God’s kingdom. Shaking somebody’s hand in the middle or the end of a “meeting,” at “greeting time,” and saying “how are you?” is not familial love. It’s the best that can be done when there is an agenda and a time limit to the meeting.
So much of Christian religion, especially within Protestantism, is “forensic and legal,” rather than familial and relational. There is no genuine bond of affection. We are bound together by theories–“convictions about doctrine from the Bible”–rather than by a bond of love by the Spirit. We think of ourselves, and others, criminally rather than as family. We may all respond to the warden to come out in the yard on a regular basis at the mandatory hour for calisthenics—I have to be next to you, because it is “time” to be next to you—but that is not the relational infrastructure of family.
This is not about the form of our meetings: institutional or organic. Changing forms without changing hearts is like putting arsenic in a new bottle and expecting a different outcome other than death if it is partaken. This is about what is in our hearts. At the end of the day, that is all that matters, and all that ever will.
Copyright 2013, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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