The contract

Years ago I read Renegotiating the Church Contract (author: James Thwaites) which gave an insight to how within the church there is often an unwritten contract between leadership and followers. This is more true within the charismatic and non-denominational brand of churches where the emphasis is on moving ahead, so ‘leaders’ are vital (my background). It is part of what is getting unravelled at this time, and the nature of unravelling is not a lot happens for a while as ends are pulled, then at a certain moment something gives and then the whole process speeds up enormously.

A sect is not a bad thing, for even followers of the way were sociologically a sect within Judaism, but it is when cultic elements make their presence and become established that the problems begin in earnest. Cults are deviant, but cultic elements can be present in all kinds of orthodox movements (and of course are often present in ‘secular’ corporations).

I am convinced that someone with 5% discernment could enter many organisations and without being given clues about the structure could soon establish who is part of the leadership, the aspiring leadership and the followers. I have sat in the distance observing some movements – one in particular that has entered the great unravel currently – and even from a distance can see that there was an unwritten contract in operation. Leaders who hold to a world view of the dangerous, evil world with a certain amount of conspiracy thrown in; followers who carry deep anxiety about the world so need to find safety which they find in the strength of the leaders who also helpfully carry something of an inside track on the path to the future. Made for each other. Make sure the ratio of leaders to followers continue at a level where the honour flows.

Same story over again and again. ‘We want a king… a king who will fight our battles for us’. Well there is a price to pay for that contract. This contract operates within the church and as it takes root it often then sets in motion something very unhealthy in the church / political realm.

I believe ‘the heart after God’ that was sought for in the successor to David is not so much the person who can pick up the harp as the one who will bring that contract to an end – to do so we might need to pick up the harp, write poetry, be reflective, rather than pick up the sword, shed blood and boast. Finally there was one who did just that, the son of David, the king of the Jews, the one who took all that to the cross:

Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matt. 27:37).

Jesus broke the contract, and from the depths ascended on high to pour out gifts, so that the entire body might come into a fullness. That fullness is not getting to the heights and forgetting the depths, it is filling all things from the depths to the heights. In that way the contract disappears.

Leadership is a gift (and it is difficult sometimes to get new words when old words have been filled with a different meaning) but when any level of cultism invades that gift – in whatever realm – the gift will only serve the system not the filling of all things. Cultism (like the desire for the king) flourishes in that in-between space; the ego within the ‘king to be’ needs to be suppressed so that s/he is not finding the baggage as a temporary hiding place but remains there till the ego gives way to sober self-identity; the desire for security within us all has to find a place of settlement that reluctantly knows we will have trouble but can find stillness within for Jesus has overcome

‘Not so among you’. Could it be?

2 thoughts on “The contract

  1. I think it’s natural to admire leaders too and to want their attention although that adds to the whole cultish ego centric set up. This is not the kingdom way and yet we all want to feel important it is so innate. I suppose we know we’re really getting more like Christ and moving towards a true mature kingdom mindset when we don’t particularly want to lead or be noticed by leaders unless we are called to specifically . My Mum is like that actually. I wish I was!!

  2. Watching the results of the European elections today. . . it seems some want a king again. But something I read really caught my eye. The comment was that young people are voting for the far right because they have believed the message of a future of gloom and doom. A narrative of catastrophe is pushing them to desire a ‘strongman’ to lead. Someone who will, presumably, make the hard decisions in a world that is increasingly hard to live in.

    Perhaps we need a new narrative. Some good news. Does the future have to be terrible? Well climate extremes raise that possibility for sure. But we could respond to the situation better. We could extricate ourselves from the worst of what is coming if we choose to. We could rediscover the power of neighbors and community in order to adapt and increase resilience. We could refuse the constant consumerism that destroys so much of the planet. We could make so many good decisions for a more biodiverse, equitable, sharing kind of world if we chose to.

    But we need a story, a narrative that leads us. Unfortunately, the church has really put the narrative of Jesus outside of consideration for many. Too much pain there. But we need something. Last night I watched a documentary on why people pretend to be indigenous here in Canada. There are all sorts of reasons for what is fraud from tax breaks to other financial perks. But the indigenous narrator noted that the settler people (descendants of the European colonizers) also just need ritual and community hence the interest in attending pow wows.

    I’m not interested particularly in cults or sects but we need to give people a story for the future. One that lifts them up, gives them heart, and a reason to get things done. I find with my climate adaptation students that the more they know, the more they experience hope. Why? Because I push for new narratives. How can this city achieve its goals more quickly? What tools do they need? How will they measure success? How can they engage residents and educate? And the more they think of those things, the more they find a narrative that holds them from despair.

    If we want to avoid authoritarianism (often historically supported by the ‘church’), then we need to give people hope and a way to get there. No kings please. Engaged communities building up one another and healing their place instead.

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