the weblog of Alan Knox

Messy Meetings

Posted by on Feb 19, 2011 in edification, gathering | 7 comments

Messy Meetings

Four years ago, I wrote a post called “Messy Meetings.” Of all of my posts, this is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it.


Messy Meetings

Relationships can be messy. We all know this. We have experienced “messy” relationships, and Scripture tells us that relating to people will not be easy. If relationships were easy and maintenance free, then we would not need “Spirit power” in order to love people. If relationships were not messy, then we would not need “Spirit power” in order to bear with one another with patience. In fact, one of the amazing things about our new life in Christ is that we can now – finally – relate to people who we would not naturally be able to relate to. We can now relate to them supernaturally, because we can now relate to God.

Of course, we do not always live in the supernatural. We do not always walk in a worthy manner. We do not always follow the Spirit. We have seen what happens in our lives and in the lives of others when this happens. Things get messy. But, we all know – or at least, we all SHOULD know – that we do not turn our backs on people when their lives get messy.

But, what about during times when the church gathers together? I believe that Scripture teaches that all believers should have the opportunity to interact with one another when the church gathers. This interaction should always be led by the Spirit, motivated by love, and for the purpose of edifying (building up to maturity) other followers of Jesus Christ. I believe God works through the gifts of all in order to grow the entire body of Christ into maturity in Christ Jesus, and I believe that this should happen anytime the church gathers.

But, what happens when one of those “participants” speaks when not led by the Spirit? What happens when someone is not motivated by love, but contributes anyway? What happens when someone acts, but their purpose is not to build up the body? What happens when someone is hurting, and they let the church know about their hurt? What happens when someone is afraid, and they voice their fear? What happens when someone disagrees?

In other words, what happens when things get messy during the meeting of the church?

There are several options in this scenario. The first option – and the one usually taken throughout most of church history, whether people realize it or not – is to limit the amount of participation during the meeting of the church. If only certain people are allowed to speak or sing or pray or contribute, then there is less chance for things to get messy. This is usually done in the name of “order”. However, I think there is an inherent problem with this solution. For one thing, this solution suggests – even inaudibly – that only certain people are qualified to contribute and only certain people are necessary for the proper functioning of the church. Also, this solution suggests – even inaudibly – that the event of the meeting is more important than the people who are meeting. This option also suggests that “messy” relationships between people are equivalent to disorder, and are thus not proper for times when the church gathers.

Another option is to allow the mess to occur, then trust the Spirit of God to use the people of God to lovingly care for the “messy” people – which, can be me or you at times, if we are honest. Thus, even when the church meets, there is a need for “Spirit empowered” love and “Spirit empowered” patience.

What are the implications of this option? Well, first of all, we have to admit that we do not know what will happen when the church gathers together. Things may not go “as planned”. Thus, we have to admit to ourselves and to others that our plan – if we have one – is not the most important thing. Instead, the people become more important than the event. We also must – truly – trust the Holy Spirit to work in and through his people, even during the meeting of the church. We must admit that we do not have all the answer, and that God may not choose to work through us during this meeting (regardless of our title, position, role, function, gifting, etc.). God may choose to work through someone else. He may even choose to work through someone’s mess – if we allow him to.

This is very difficult to do – it is even difficult to think. Even after thinking through this idea of “church” for several years, I still have this habitual understanding that I should be quiet (thus, reverent) when I come together with the church (unless, of course, I have been scheduled to speak). There is also this traditional idea that “order” means “according to plan”.

So, what are we going to do with “messy” people and “messy” meetings? Can we trust God enough to allow him to work through us and others during the meeting, even when things are out of our hands? Can we allow people to hurt, cry, doubt, complain, disagree, etc. while the church meets without rushing them off to a back room or asking them to leave altogether? Can we allow the church to be the church to one another even when the church is meeting?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-19-2011


    Great questions, the answers to which will depend on answering another question:

    Why are we meeting?

    Is it to serve others as a part of a lifestyle of worship, or, for self-satisfying religious reasons?

  2. 2-19-2011


    Great post. Our fellowship is currently going through a bit of a messy time, so this is very pertinent.

  3. 2-19-2011

    Aussie John,

    Yes, that is exactly the question we must ask ourselves about our meetings.


    I’m praying for you. How is your fellowship handling the messiness?


  4. 2-20-2011

    At first, some of the parties involved were trying to deal with their hurt themselves, or not seeing how they hurt others. I’ve tried to be a peacemaker and emphasize that reconciliation was vital to the health of our body, but it didn’t look like things were moving that way. Things seem to have turned around the last few days. We were all together this morning, and there seems to be at least the beginnings of real reconciliation.

    Thanks for your prayers. Please continue, as I’m sure more messiness will happen at some point.

  5. 2-20-2011


    I’m still praying. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of what’s going on. By the way, if the people you meet with remain real and authentic, then, yes, there will be more messiness.


  6. 2-25-2011

    This one got me thinking… I’m not sure what types of “messy-ness” we are talking here… but I thought I’d start rambling and see what comes out:

    The Spirit works the best in messy-ness doesn’t He? He works great when we all recognize how poor we are and in messy situations – our poverty is pretty evident.

    In our broken areas – brokenness in self, brokenness of relationships – is when His love & light can really shine brightest.

    *We* are limited in our view and also confined in time so we are so uncomfortable with the messy. It takes an awful lot of trust to believe that the Spirit can work in supernatural ways when our flesh and outsides look so unclean. but truth is, He can and does work so much on the inside without us even realizing all He is doing.

    God sees the bigger picture – the work He is doing inside the person when the outside is so not what we want it to look like – and He also sees what’s to come. He is never frustrated.

    I guess it’s unmet expectations that cause the frustration in us. We must let go of the expectations and give ourselves & others the grace to live out in freedom the relationship with God.

    Religion is controllable. Organized. Structured. Expectations can be clear. Time frames can be set.

    Relationships are based on people so there’s no map, only a guide.

    We don’t “like” each other’s messiness…. but God just loves. He doesn’t worry about “like” because He doesn’t see us only in that unlikeable moment. He sees ALL of us.

    Let me try again.. Because we are human, WE can have moments where we don’t “like” each other and don’t “like” the situation we are in or “like” how things are going…. but God doesn’t have those moments because He is not bound by time. He sees His whole child, every moment of their life, beginning to end – good and bad… He is patient and He is sovereign. Our frustration is never His frustration. He knows the story and our detours don’t frustrate His work as Potter.

    I actually think it’s beautiful to God when our messiness plays ‘out’ instead of only in. He has to see messiness ALL the time – because He sees our thoughts. We don’t even have any clue the messiness He sees. So if we’re worried about messiness – I guess we ought to figure out what we’re so stressed about. we all know the messy-ness is in – we should be so thankful when it comes “out” because we know authenticity is finally there!

    bla bla bla. kids are calling.

  7. 2-25-2011


    I think your comment is an excellent way of looking out the messiness in our lives from God’s perspective. If you haven’t yet, you should work that into a blog post.



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