Monday, November 5, 2012

Tribes, Herds, and Families

The Church at large, and particularly the American branch of Christianity, has long been about the business of following. And in this case following Jesus is not the following we are talking about.

Jesus set up the church to follow His lead and be the key factor in the world, changing cultures through God’s incarnating presence. It is questionable if the large, institutional version of church ever did this effectively, but since the days of the reformation, Christians have largely opted out of cultural conversations. In the past century of increased attempts to “be relevant” believers have not set trends, they have held their finger up into the wind and followed whatever was considered “effective.”

Usually, this has meant following the trends of sales and marketing. American Christianity could largely be seen as being disciples of sales gurus.

You can see this played out in recent church history in the way evangelism has evolved from sharing what Christ has meant in one’s life, to an impersonal, step-by-step sales pitch. Or, the trend adopted by the “Church Growth Movement” to homogenize church into uniform segregations of ages and races. The latest incarnation of this has been most notable in the way many in the church “follow” Seth Godin and others like him.

This is not to say that Godin’s ideas as presented in “Tribes” are wrong or even bad. It is just ironic to see that his trends analysis and the resulting suggestions are pushed more than the ideas and suggestions of Scripture. Sometimes the two line up quite well, but often the ideas in the Bible run contrary to the current conventional wisdom.

That is because all secular cultural analysis is based on the natural way the world works. Much about church is counter intuitive and—if you believe the Biblical premise—supernatural.

The Church is more than a tribe. Sure, it is a group connected by a common belief and a common leader. (Although that leader is not quite what Godin has in mind in his description; unless you are setting up a church fueled by charismatic, personality driven leadership, which is a whole other sort of bad church planting strategy.) The Church is not a herd waiting for instruction from its human leadership. Or at least it shouldn’t be. The Church is a body, a family, made up of distinct and different people brought together beyond natural affinities, with a task that, when done right, defies logical analysis.

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