Over the last few days, I’ve had conversations with different people around the idea of “duplicating what God created.” We didn’t call it that, and never used those words, but that was the point of our discussions.
What do I mean?
Well, as humans, we tend to be methodical. When we see something that “works,” we tend to want to re-created it… duplicating the systems and processes that seemed to produce the result. Often, we get good results. This works well in the scientific fields. But, in sociological fields – i.e., where people are involved – usually the “duplicates” fall short of the original.
Why? Well, simply put, because people are involved, and people are different from place to place and time to time.
This works into our church life as well. Perhaps a group of believers get together, and they make a huge impact on their community. People study this group of believers, and produce a system with the same activities and programs and ministries and leadership structure, etc. But, they don’t get the same results.
Why not? Because the people involved are different. The context is different. The gifts and opportunities are different.
Perhaps this is why we do not see a clear picture of what the church “looked like” in Scripture. If God gave us a clear picture of what the church looked like in Jerusalem, then many would try to duplicate it. If we had a clear understanding of how the church met in Thessalonika, then others would try to create the same kind of meeting. This kind of duplication will not work, because the people involved (i.e. the church) is different.
So, instead of giving a clear picture of what our church meetings should “look like” or how leadership should be structured, or what ministries we should pursue, we’re given different types of information. Whatever we do should be in love. However we meet, we should edify one another. Wherever we go and whatever we do and whoever leads us, we do so as family.
If we take these kinds of “normative” principles with us, it will not matter (as much) what the church meeting ultimately looks like, or how the leaders operate, or what kinds of ministries we pursue. And, we will recognize that while our meetings, leadership, and ministries may look different than another group’s, our goals and purposes are the same.
We will only be concerned when we find love missing, or mutual edification lacking, or family identification nullified. Then we will seek to rectify the problems… not because of wrong activities.
While we will rejoice about how God works among a group of believers, we will not jump at the “next big thing” that comes along, trying to force another group of believers into a mold created by different people.
Instead, we will be comfortably uncomfortable allowing God to create what he wants to create, with the people that he brings together, using the gifts and talents and opportunities that he gives them. And, we will recognize that it’s okay (and even expected) that we don’t look like another group of believers or that God is working differently in and through us.
And, we will happily refuse to try to duplicate what God may be creating somewhere else or at a different time or among a different group of people. Instead, we will focus on loving, edifying, caring, making disciples, and evangelizing the world as God has given us gifts, talents, opportunities, ministries, and resources.