“So, Alan, when you gather with the church, how do you do X?”
I’m often asked that question. Sometimes, my friends who are part of more institutional churches ask me questions like that. Sometimes, my friends who are part of more organic churches ask me questions like that.
Invariably, regardless of whether the questioner prefers more organization or less organization, he or she will find something that we do (or don’t do) with which to disagree. Then, I’m asked the following question, “Well, why do you do that, when Scripture clearly says such-and-such?”
Or, even more exciting, occasionally someone will determine that we do things in a different way than what I’ve written about here. Then, I’ll here or read a statement such as this: “Well, why do you do that, when you’ve written that you believe such-and-such is better or more scriptural?”
Both answers make an invalid assumption. The answers assume that I control the church in such a way that we always do (or don’t do) exactly what I think we should do (or not do).
Believe it or not, I do not control the brothers and sisters with whom I meet regularly. In fact, I do not even WANT to try to control them – even when they decide to do something that I disagree with.
We cannot disciple one another – helping one another follow Jesus Christ – via control, even if we are right. (Of course, we will never know with certainty that we are right… but that’s beside the point.)
Instead, we help one another follow Jesus Christ through teaching, example, and patience, trusting that God will help all of us learn to follow together.
In the meantime, we all still live with one another in Jesus Christ, even as we are maturing (but not yet perfected). If we are maturing (but not yet perfected), then we will follow imperfectly (all of us, both individually and corporately). We will not always make the best decisions individually, and we will not always make the best decisions corporately.
So, we only have a few choices: 1) We try to control others and make them do what we think is best. 2) We separate from those who refuse to do what we think is best. 3) We live with one another in our imperfections continuing to help one another follow Jesus Christ and mature in him.
I decided long ago that I am not in control and that I will not attempt to control others, even when someone (or some group) decides to do something that I do not think is best. I’ve also decided that I will stick with my brothers and sisters even when they make decisions with which I disagree.
(By the way, God has surrounded me with some wonderful people. You know, when I disagree with the decisions we make together as a church, I am often the one who is wrong…)