EMC #7: Construct or Deconstruct?

Author: Stuart Lindsell

Construct or Deconstruct?

Many churches are facing the question where do we go from here? Or more importantly how do we get there from here? Is it even possible to get there from here? Some are suggesting that the pathway has to be de-construction. By that they mean the removal of existing structures in order that a new community might grow up. For many the new community would have to adopt a creation mandate, would be decentralised, missional, non-hierarchical and liquid in its ethos.

Jim Thwaites makes the helpful suggestion that we are not called to put anything to death apart from sin. However we must avoid trying to sustain and prop up what God is clearly not sustaining. We have to let go what God is taking away. His deconstruction process, in the local church of which he was pastor, involved not performing to the traditional set of expectations. This was painful for the church to come to terms with but eventually a community with new values and expectations began to emerge. The pastor was no longer at the centre managing and sustaining the community with his vision. Now there were many visions all contributing to the life of the city and sustained and encouraged by the whole household of God.

It is interesting to me that the calling and commissioning of Jeremiah contained six verbs. Four verbs were about uprooting, tearing down, destroying and overthrowing and two were about building and planting . It would seem that that proportion is about the right balance when we reflect on where we are today. Our problems in transition have to be honestly faced because it is not only about doing church differently but with a new mindset. Our old structures undoubtedly contain some Platonic dualistic DNA we would rather do without and this is a major problem for mission. As long as we have a religious or even ‘spiritual’ club down the road that we are trying to get people to join they will work us out very quickly. One of my most recent experiences of what God is doing came when I went into a local shop owned and run by believers. It is a second hand children’s clothes shop in the heart of a very troubled area with all the usual problems of broken families, drug abuse etc. At the back of the shop is a cafe that is often busy with mums with pushchairs and people from the community who drop in for company. One day the manageress introduced me to Brian. He often came in to get help with his bills and reading documents he couldn’t understand. Brian had just celebrated his 70th birthday. He told me with joy in his eyes that the people in the shop had given him a surprise party with a cake and candles. The only thing was that he didn’t know you were supposed to blow out the candles. I asked him why he did not know this. He then said that this was the only birthday party he had ever had. He went on to tell me a little of his life story of pain and sadness. Brian is typical of many lonely people who will never cross the threshold of a church building. In the shop he had found a community who cared for him, loved him and where he felt he belonged. Brian did not have to cross any cultural or religious threshold because it was the believers who had re-orientated their lives toward him and others like him. There was no church to go to because the church was embedded in the community.