You know what I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading and praying and conversing about over the last years? You guessed it – what life looks like in a faithful faith community – in other words, how a follower of Jesus in relationship with other followers of Jesus live the Kingdom life. As the bible points out, as we live our lives within the flow of the Spirit, growth happens. To be blunt – our growth and faithfulness should be infectious – it should be influential (since the Spirit of God in alive in us) in other’s lives. I think you would remiss in reading the New Testament if you DIDN’T notice growth…growth in heart, life and numbers of people who chose to follow Jesus as time passed.
Well, I’m not posting this to make a thorough or even superficial analysis of what has occurred throughout history to derail our contemporary experience from what was clearly communicated in the bible. What I am trying to do is promote a conversation…for you see, there are assumptions that we all make in life that keep us stuck. You know that and I know that…you can assume one thing about your life, children, spouse, work environment, neighborhood, things you buy, etc., etc. that simply don’t pan out in reality. Eventually reality grips you and you have to face the truth.
One of the problems in what I call (affectionately, I might add) “churchworld” is the problem of assumptions…I believe that most faith communities get stuck for a plethora of reasons…but one of the most prominent has to do with a cognition trap that is based upon assumptions, otherwise known as “just-like-me-aphobia” or mirror imaging (an excellent book to read about other cognition traps is entitled, Blunder by Zachary Shore). As Shore points out in the book, “Mirror Imaging is assuming, consciously or unconsciously, that the “other side” (i.e. everyone else but us) thinks and acts like us.” That’s what happens in many local congregations.
So, what I’m trying to do is be VERY CLEAR about the assumptions we are making so that we can do combat with cognition traps and find a new sense of freedom to have our minds and hearts renewed. Now, I have a feeling that we need to “act our way to a new way of thinking”…but for now and in this context, I think it might be helpful to at least think through the traps we buy into via assumptions. So, here is a list that I am assembling…read it over and feel free to comment and add to the list.
Now friends…this list is not meant to be a source of ridicule or condemnation – to do so would only unclothe the “emperor”…in other words, it would demonstrate our own hypocrisy and pride. The issue is to be honest about the assumptions that keep us trapped and address the issue of how we find freedom from them to experience and embrace the “mind of Christ”.
Note – since the foundation of this post (at least the “context” of it) is from my denominational perspective, you will see the word “Lutheran”…you could place many denominational “brands” in that same spot and come to similar conclusions. For now, these are assumptions that are made in local (Lutheran) churches that prevent them from being faithful to the purpose and call of Jesus to make disciples:
- There are other Lutherans in our community that need a church home
- There are Lutherans moving into our community that simply need to know about us and then they’ll join
- Membership in a church is a high value in our culture
- Sunday is a day for worship and church activity
- “If we build it (nice church building, good programs, attractive services, friendly environment, etc.) they will come”
- People know what Lutheranism is and want to join us and do life the way we do it
- Everybody is of Germanic or Scandinavian background
- Theological “rightness” or correct doctrine is everyone’s passion
- The music that people love listening to is played on NPR and Classical music stations
- Everybody wants to be a Lutheran
- People see Lutheranism as the best “brand” of Christianity
- Everybody in our community knows at least one Lutheran
- People will navigate seasons in life only with the presence of a professional pastor/clergy (e.g. counseling needs, baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.)
- Everyone appreciates something that happened in the 16th century
- Everyone understands and seeks out a church that has its origins in ancient history
- If we just had the opportunity to show people how right we are in our style and practices as a church, they would agree with us and join in – in other words, they just need to right teaching and persuasion
- Children need religious training and upbringing
- Everyone wants to know about heaven and hell and why they will go to one or the other after they die
- Everyone is curious about the bible
- Everyone loves to practice their religion “our” way
- People love to sit and listen to what religious experts have to say about life
- People would rather be in a worship experience than watching sports events or doing recreational activity on weekends
- Everyone appreciates the fact that we give a portion of our income to the church to further the work of God in the world
- People drive by our church building all the time and take notice of our attractive and informative signs – they notice the service times and read the pithy comments
- Doesn’t everybody look for a church in the phonebook?