the weblog of Alan Knox

An analogy of the church for geeks

Posted by on Sep 27, 2011 in blog links | 6 comments

An analogy of the church for geeks

If you read my blog, then you probably like reading about, talking about, studying, etc. the church.

But, are you also a geek? Do you enjoy computer stuff? Do you know what plugins, extensions, and add-ons are?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions (and even if you answered “no”) you will enjoy Jon’s post “Plugins Extensions and Add-ons and the Church.”

His post begins with this:

“Speed up browsing by disabling add-ons.” I keep getting this message when I use Internet Explorer. I just checked Firefox and counted 13 plugins and extensions. I should sort through which ones I need to keep and discard the rest. If you have too many add-ons life slows down. We all know people who fill up every spare minute of their lives with activities and clubs. Its worth taking a moment now and then to sort out our priorities, and disable some add-ons.

From the studies I’ve done on what church meant in the New Testament here, here and here I believe church is people of God and when they get together. However when I look at church today I see a lot of extra things that have been added over the years. Extra additions are not necessarily bad. Sometimes people get so used to these extra things that they can’t imagine church without them. Sometimes these extra things get most of the focus, a lot of resources and time.

For there, the post just gets better. He names some of the plugins, extensions, and add-ons that “get most of the focus, a lot of resources and time.” Some are recent add-ons; some are historical.

Take the time to read Jon’s post. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Now… how do we trim away these “add-ons” and get to the root of what it means to be the church? How do we ensure that we’re not stripping away something vital and necessary?


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

  1. 9-27-2011

    Another useful question might be “How do we ensure that the add-ons we are using are not stripping away something vital and necessary?”

    What is “vital and necessary” are the unchanging principles and functions (the “what and why”) given to us in scripture. Once we understand these, the church will then flexibly shape the practices and forms (the “how, where and when”) that flow from them into their specific people, place, and time.

    There is never only one way for a principle to be put into practice or for a function to take form. There are simply many ways that serve well (and many ways that do not serve well) in adapting to a people, time and place to fulfill the unchanging principles and functions. If we do not know what is “vital and necessary” in the first place, we have no way to evaluate and guide what we do.

    All of the add-ons Jon listed are simply practices and forms–many of them designed (whether poorly or well for their times I’ll leave to others) to fit situations in long gone cultures. Unfortunately, once adopted, we tend to endow our practices and forms with being unchangeable ways of God. Thus, Jon’s observation that, “You may find it hard to imagine what the church was like before these things were added.” To many, these things ARE the church.

    Another mistake we make regarding “plugins” is to set forth the functions and forms that were successfully implemented at some other time and place as a “best-practices model,” and then attempt to franchise the model via seminars and books so others can transplant them to our cultural environ, where many key cultural differences exist. In Jon’s metaphor, that is like adopting Mac add-ons for Windows environments. Doesn’t usually work well.

    All practices and forms should be evaluated in a specific people, time and place to see how well they fulfill the unchanging principles and purposes for the church and for Christians in their specific cultural context. (as Alan suggested in a recent post, there are times when we should and must ask ourselves, “yeah, hath God said?” Generally, there are very many plugins–practices and forms–that would serve us well in fulfilling God’s principles/purposes, and very many that would be at odds with doing so.

    For example, take the principle of “mutual edification when assembled” that we find described in passages like Heb 10:24-25; I Cor 14:23-26; and I Pet 4:8-11.

    Now it is fair to ask how well do some of our current practices, described as plugins by Jon, serve at fulfilling this “mutual edification when assembled” principle?

    1. Sermons as the main part of the gathering

    2. Pews/Chairs

    3. Worship Band

    4. Video/Multimedia presentations

    5. Church Libraries

    6. Church annual meetings

    Some of these, like number 6, are neutral to this principle.

    Some, like numbers 2 and 5, could be done in ways that would be beneficial to fulfilling the principle and could also be done in ways that hurt fulfilling the principle.

    Still others, like number 1, prevent fulfillment of the principle no matter how you adapt them if they remain the week in, week out, standard of practice.

    Practices and forms should be judged, adopted, modified and discarded based on how well they serve to fulfill unchanging principles and functions in a specific people, place and time.

  2. 9-27-2011

    Thanks Alan for sharing my link and encouraging dialog.

    Wow Art… I’m glad that got you going. You’re comment is almost longer than my post. 🙂 I like the connection you’ve made about trying to adopt Mac add-ons for Windows environments. Just because an add-on works well at some point for some people, it doesn’t mean we all have to use it forever.

    And yes, I agree with where you are going. Once you recognize you have a bunch of add-ons, one should evaluate each one to determine if they are helping or hindering what you are hoping to accomplish.

  3. 9-28-2011

    Hey Jon,

    Yeah, the topic pushes my hot button. Over the years, I’ve become very focused on the church. Somewhere along the way, maybe even to a point overshadowing that “something” that is most “vital and necessary:” loving God and loving people.

    I think our concern for the truth should flow from our love of God and our love for people. It starts that way, but can come to take on a life of its own, eventually overshadowing what first exercised our hearts on these matters. If we have “lost our first love” the works we labor for will be fruitless to God.

    When you said, “Its worth taking a moment now and then to sort out our priorities,” there can come a time when it needs to extend even further than “to disable some add-ons.” Sometimes we need to let Him rearrange the foundation of our priorities.

  4. 9-28-2011

    To stay with your metaphor, a friend of mine uses this tagline: “Christianity is not a plug-in, it’s an operating system” (see Mark 12:28-31)

  5. 9-28-2011

    Yes Art, I’m with you brother.

  6. 9-28-2011

    Once again, you guys have a great discussion without me… 😉

    Seriously, thanks for the great comments, and thanks for the great analogy, Jon!