Your Blog Steward

My photo
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In, with, under, and against

Congregations are interesting pieces of social culture...on the one had they are products of the culture and community in which they reside...but a huge part of that identity is to be loyal to God (rather than the surrounding culture) so that a great many Christian congregations actually flow AGAINST the culture from which it is constituted. (In truth, many Christian congregations believe they are constituted by God, not by their surrounding culture, and for that reason they are often "called" to be against their culture.) And this is what makes congregations so interesting.

The culture's story, such as it is in the USA these days, is often in flux, and even more so one can choose one's dominant cultural story with relative ease. It might be more accurate these days to talk of "cultures" in the USA rather than one, single, dominant, cultural story that tries to encompass everything. (This is one of the unique pieces of being the USA. For years the dominant cultural story assumed it included everybody, and therefore everybody was part of the dominant culture...of course, as people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Gloria Stenheim, and others pointed out 40 years ago, the dominant culture was rather exclusive, and did not include everybody...but now that things have gotten topsy-turvy, trying to actually include everybody leads to no one dominant cultural story, and even less cultural coinherence.)

And if there are multiple cultural stories that make up the USA, it stands to reason there are multiple Christian congregations that both arise from one cultural story, and even can be opposed to another cultural story, within the same traditions, histories, and families. Because you can have--for example--families in which various members vote Democrat and others in the family vote Republican--you can have congregations in which some would lean one way, and others would lean the opposite--and in every case it would be possible to find in each congregation people who vote against the dominant story...as I said, congregations are interesting.

No matter what cultural story dominates a congregation, the healthiest congregations I have experienced understand that God's story drives the congregation and its people. In this way, God is in, with, under, and against a congregation as they are God's bread in a hungry world. Because when someone is dying from lonliness, or suffering from depression, or addicting themselves from fear or ennui, God feeds them with the life-giving food of Christian community. Even the worst Christian community can feed somebody...and on their good days...they probably do. May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

No comments: