Foundations

Posted: September 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

Of all the great loves of my life – including Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter – one of my favorites is reading and research.  I love to know what thinkers are thinking and sayers are saying.  Especially when the thinking and saying pertains to the Church.  My life has been spent in, around, through, and about the local church.  It’s one of the other great loves.

Over the past several years, many spiritual leaders – emerging and otherwise – have been asking reasonable and no doubt well-intentioned questions about the veracity and validity of the church.  Those questions are presented in many different kinds of packaging, but the overall tone is, “The church is bleeding and broken, perhaps beyond repair.”  The central theme seems to center around a few primary complaints:

  1. The church is stuck in traditionalism and has become irrelevant
  2. The church is judgmental and has lost the love that framed the great commandment and fuels authentic community
  3. The church as we know it does not reflect Jesus’ love for the poor and oppressed

I’ve logged a lot of hours in church and I have to agree with each one of those points in varying degrees.  I’ve seen the church struggle and fail and fall more times than I can count.  As a leader, I have undoubtedly been at the helm of some of those failures so I certainly can’t argue that the problems exist.  However, yesterday I read a blog by a respected leader who insisted that the church is built on such a faulty and crooked foundation that  nothing short of  dismantling it will suffice.  The exact wording was:  “Our foundation is broken.  The construction has to come down and be rebuilt from scratch.”

I chewed and chewed on this line.  I tried to swallow it, I really did.  I liked everything else the writer had to say, but this one landed like a rock in my gut and I just couldn’t make it my own.  Here’s why:

My great grandmother was an intercessor of great impact.  My life is proof of her commitment – her genuine commitment to Jesus and her authentic love for people.  It was the kind of love that got her out of bed while it was still dark to pray through their names and contend for the generations that would never see the light of day until she was firmly situated in the cloud of witnesses.

My grandfather was a man who demonstrated an almost palpable hunger to know God.  He was a lifelong seeker of truth and of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Truly, he modeled the power of dissatification with spiritual status quo.  When other men his age were retiring to their barcoloungers, my grandparents moved to a tiny house in a tiny village in Mexico where they gave their lives to the people,  teaching them to seek and know the same God who had filled their hearts with a passion for dangerous living.

My mom and dad have loved God and served the church their whole lives. Though they also have earned the right to kick back and enjoy their retirement – they can be found nearly every day at their church, helping people find lasting freedom as they embrace the truth of the mercy of God.  My parents love Jesus and people and the church in a way that just humbles me.

These are the shoulders I stand on – and they’re just a few people from one family.  They are a few of the millions who       helped build – brick by brick – the church that stands today.  Was it all done right?  Nope.   But I believe that many of the fault lines in the foundation of the church  – from Acts until today – are there because those who built  could only see through a glass darkly.

And so do we.

My problem with the idea of dismantling is it presupposes that A)  Nothing exists inside the church as we know it worth salvaging and B)  Those who are smart enough to dismantle the faulty work are also qualified to do the rebuilding.

Bottom line, I think my generation has become arrogant in the way we answer the big questions.   The questions should be asked, yes, because we all agree that reformation is both necessary and possible.  But those inquiries must be made under the weight of the humility that our youth and inexperience demands.  We live in a country and an era where having answers sells books and grows churches and pays pretty well.  Great caution and restraint should be applied to our willingness to judge those who did their best to build a foundation that they hoped would hold the weight of our destiny.

We owe it to those who come after us to care deeply and respect greatly those who came before us.  We need to be – like Nehemiah – those who can use both the old and the new as we build the house of God.

Thankful to the God of Orva, Mel, Stan and Ellen,

Bo

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Comments
  1. Proud College Daughter says:

    To quote a movie that used this line for something entirely different, “Yes. A thousand times yes.” While it is true that our cracked and breaking race created and breaking establishment, we are more than surviving. Looking back on ages past when men and women of the church bought the souls of their loved ones out of purgatory, it is clear that we do not need bulldozers, we need Martin Luthers. We need men and women to stand and say not, “We’re starting over!” but a strong and steady, “We’re replacing this room and fortifying that one.” The fine workmanship that laid down our foundation has kept it from being compromised, though it has been altered.

    Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, Mom. I love seeing where my passion for justice came from.;)

    Love,
    Proud College Daughter

  2. bolovesjoe says:

    Thanks, dear daughter. I love you and am so proud of you and your passion for justice. I also love that you get it…you know? You understand that you’re not the only limb on the tree and there are other people who helped to get us where you are today. In short, you’re one of the good ones and I’m lucky to be your mom.

    Mom (duh)

  3. I totally agree, Bo! Very well-stated, as usual. You have a gift for words and perspective. May they infiltrate the hearts of those who read them!

  4. Susan from Nebraska says:

    I too am moved to shout a big AMEN from my bed with my foot above my heart!!! I feel inadequate enough without being told I have been building on a bad foundation!!! Wow, now I can believe more than ever that I built on a foundation that doesn’t depend on me but on THE ROCK CHRIST JESUS. And that is the one and only foundation that will carry this church to the final days of VICTORY. Has this guy failed to read the end of THE BOOK??? WE WIN!!!!
    Thanks for being brave enough to tackle the big questions even though you are writing on a ‘women’s’ blog!!!!

  5. sarah says:

    Thanks for that post, Aunt Bo. Are there discouraging things about the church right now? Yes. But I am sick about hearing how wrong it is. If we keep our focus on loving God and loving people, I know He can still do great things with His church. I think my generation and the generations coming behind us need to hear this hope. Some GREAT foundation has been laid before us, too! Praying for a real revival…

  6. Neal says:

    The beauty of this is that the church is alive and healthy. Keep in mind I am not talking about a particular place of worship, but about the church. You and me, those that work in the trenches every day. We are those that love the unlovable, those that feed the hungry, and visit the orphan, and widow in their time of need. For some reason Jesus decided that he was going to start this thing called the church, and that he was going to be active in that so here we are. I want to be where he is and he is in you and me through the power of his Spirit, he makes it all work as he desires. Now it is important to meet with the saints for fellowship and the breaking of the bread. So each of us chooses a place where that happens to work the best for us. The world calls that place church. We call it a meeting of the saints. Don’t confuse the church with the building down the street they are two very different entities.

  7. ci says:

    Wow… I just love this entry. Those shoulders we stand on? They’re very real and very strong and God continues to equip us and coming generations to keep the building and remodeling going. I’m so happy He chooses to include us, even with such gross imperfections. We’ve certainly all had our disappointments. Due to all that’s seen around us, we MUST keep our eyes fixed on the unseen which is eternal. Love Tori’s line, “We’re replacing this room and fortifying that one…” amen

  8. brooke says:

    So beautiful. I have no idea if you’ll see this comment since it’s an old post and I’m surfing around your blog tonight. I just wanted to say thanks for standing for this.

    I think of not just my parents or those whose books I’ve read or dear old friends and others who went before me as being my foundation on whom I am imperfectly built — but of the true and perfect foundation upon which I am built. On Jesus. He is the Rock. And that’s what the church is built upon. Your comment about us being so smart as to know where the faults all are and that we think we can see so clearly as to know how to eradicate them and rebuild … so wise. So wise. Thanks!

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