Why Are An Orange?

Because the faster you eat the much.*

To anyone still trying to figure that out, it is not supposed to make sense. The reason for using it as a post title is that is where I am at with the whole church deal. It just doesn’t make sense. I am not too angry, bitter, or hurt to participate. I just don’t see the point of playing that game anymore.

Mega-Vision

In Bob’s post about his experience at Saddleback, he describes an attitude that I am struggling with about church. It is so corporately self-centered. When a church is large (ie successful?), there is this mentality that they need to extend their success to a greater scope, and that is equated with extending the gospel. But rather than impart and release, it is ALWAYS franchise and own. Describing this imperialistic tendency, Bob says:

Church is this campus that we’ve put so much dang effort and money into. Church is also the messages we beam into the school auditoriums of those less-privileged folks who don’t live in comfortable commuting distance.

We experienced something similar when the church we were attending announced that it wanted to provide satellite churches in many of the small communities around here that “don’t have a church.” The reality is that most of these communities do have a church, but they don’t have a McChurch. So instead of supporting whatever work is already happening within the community, this church will swoop in with a satellite venue that will allow the people of this underprivileged community to associate with the Mother Church.

Mono-Vision

Internetmonk had a post about the Sunday service and the unchallenged belief that the Sunday service is church, period. He states that the worship service is not a disciple making process but rather produces passive consumers of church culture. His question:

How did corporate worship, which we now focus on with the majority of our time, resources and efforts as Christians, fit into Jesus’ process of creating a Kingdom movement?

Maybe it’s a phase. Maybe I will get over it. I have tried to maintain an uncritical view of church in its many expressions and to appreciate that God is at work in the various congregations.

For the moment, I am so disillusioned with the end results of the organizational and programmatic aspects of church that I cannot seem to see beyond that.

Murky Vision

My husband and I were talking about it the other day, and I asked him, “What if we really are too far gone? What if we can’t go back to that? Surely doing nothing isn’t the alternative?”

“We won’t always be doing nothing.”

“So what will we do when we are done doing nothing.”

“Something.”

There you have it, our plan. When we are done doing nothing, we are going to do something.

I know that learning to live missionally in ordinary life isn’t doing nothing, but I can’t seem to get rid of the feeling that there should be something more intentional.

Missional Vision

I just ran across this today from Tim Bailey. (ht Darryl) This makes sense to me, but I have no idea what it looks like when it is not a church service. I can’t say that I have seen this in action.

Missionality is DISCOVERED when a church (a people) lives out values and God plants a vision. And a vision from God will always be a picture of the world and its’ redemption, not a picture of a wonderfully “effective” church.

Mapless Vision

The undefinedness of this has bothered me, not in a frantic way but more in a nagging, wondering sort of way. Today these words by Peter Rollins made perfect sense to me.

I am saying that not knowing what ought to be done is to already know what ought to be done. In other words, ‘I do not know what I should do and I must step out and do it’! This is not then some commitment to do ‘church’ better by either improving it or starting a new one. For this reconfiguring will still be taking place in the very waters that sustains it. It is not a saying ‘no’ to one known in favour of another known, rather it involves saying ‘no’ to one known in favour of the unknown.

Have you figured it out? What makes sense?

*(I couldn’t remember the answer to this, so I had to call my husband on his cell phone, “Honey, I forgot, why are an orange?”)

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39 thoughts on “Why Are An Orange?

  1. Wow, Grace…I feel kind of like I’m being inspired to blog about the history behind the vision for CovenantClusters. It sound exactly like this post.

    The thing is, though, that even though we feel like we are doing nothing, it’s really not true. God is doing a tremendous work in our souls — to free and bind up and heal from a strange kind of captivity.

    And the blogging that you do, Grace, is a very real and BIG something to those of us who are in your same “shoes” but suffer from the lack of encouragement from a fellowship of like-minded radicals. 8)

    …and so, the “shoe” I walk in seen in The Virtual Abbess (hmmm, should that then be the “habit” instead of the “shoe”… hehehe ;) )

    And I might suggest to Peter R. that the “unknown” can still exist even when the “what” of a vision is known — and it is called the “how” and the “who” and the “where”….

    …and, yes, we ARE ruined — in a blessed kind of way!

  2. ah but peggy.. when you do discover the who, how and where does not the what also undergo fundamental shift?

    and grace, thanks for not playing the game. it means a lot to me and many others.

  3. David…hey, just about everything I know about the process of following the leading of the Spirit falls under the category of “undergoing fundamental shift.” 8)

    All I meant was that there can be a “what” to start with and still be totally a part of the “unknown” — like the whole “you have to be moving in order for the Spirit to direct your path” way of thinking.

    Each of us is “moving” in different ways, I guess.

  4. Grace,
    “When we are done doing nothing, we are going to do something.” Well said. :)

    I am very much in wonder at all the transition going on–people in the in-between where “church” is concerned. What comes to mind is that Abraham had to embark on his journey without knowing where he would land. So while this may or may not be a transition of Biblical proportions…at least there’s a precedent in the Scripture of having to move in a direction without knowing the whole story, but having to trust God with the unknown.

    Where I come from, it actually goes this way:
    Q. What’s the difference between an orange?
    A. A bicycle seat–because a vest has no sleeves.

    Guess it’s a matter of interpretation. :D

    P.S. PickmepickmepickmepickME! :)

  5. I relate, totally. I just don’t get the traditional/congregational thing anymore. Explain to me why I have to pay a professional to be my friend, to be my mentor, and to tell me what the Bible says again? It. Just. Doesn’t. Compute. So I guess that ultimately, the only benefit I would find is (local) community. But, then I would be paying (tithing) for friends/community. I guess that’s services rendered, but I just can’t do social club Christianity anymore. It just doesn’t make ANY sense to me.

    On the other hand, I bless you if that’s how you find community, and find God, and so mission, and all the rest. If it makes sense for you, great! Go for it! I don’t think you’re ‘out’ because you aren’t like me. But I can’t do it. It’s like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. That’s what I’ve discovered about myself recently.

    And no, I don’t really ‘see’ it except that it is intentional toward spending time actually listening to God, rather than planning our mission strategies. (It is intentionally submitted to Him as King in this way). It is more intentional toward relationships: with fellow believers AND with unbelievers. It is intentional about building people and helping do what God is placing in their heart. It is less ‘project’ oriented, less ‘outreach’ oriented. More everyday ‘life’ oriented. That’s all I know.

    And Jeff, I’m lol!

  6. I see that hand. Is there another? another?

    Jeff,
    …and motorcycles don’t have doors
    …and bananas don’t have bones.
    Do you walk to work or carry your lunch?

  7. Peggy,
    There is an incredible amount of internal work in freeing our thinking from the captivity of institutional church paradigms. But it is necessary work, I believe, because until we do, we limit ourselves to our current imagination and understanding of church and aren’t likely to actually step away from the paradigm but just create variations of the same old thing.

    David,
    I agree that even if we know the what, we must hold that knowing loosely because the final form of what must be shaped by the specific context of the who, how, and where. Did you get that? :)

    Sarah,
    Yep, I can totally relate to your first 2 paragraphs. I don’t feel any need to upset anyone else’s place in church if they are happy there.
    Your last paragraph was encouraging to me. There are things that I am intentional about and can be intentional about. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. I don’t have a clue either but given the response of your husband…our husbands should meet. He really is not concerned at all yet.

  9. Grace,

    To be honest, when I talk to people about the church, they often sound like your question: “Why are an orange?” And when I answer, I probably sound like your answer: “Because the faster you eat the much”. Why? Because we’re talking about different things.

    I think of church as family now – people brought into relationship through the Spirit of God. Like family, there are some nearer to me than others, but we are all still family. “Brother” and “sister” are not Christianese, they are terms of reality. I haven’t always lived in that reality, but God is teaching me how to do just that.

    -Alan

  10. Hmm… I think so many of the McChurches have forgotten that the Church is the PEOPLE, not the buildings and the projects and the mission. Where I am at now, I think that until a church learns how to fellowship within itself, it will not be terribly effective doing much else worth doing…

  11. “What if we really are too far gone? What if we can’t go back to that?”

    This made me smile. I don’t think I can go back. That used to bother me. Certainly doesn’t anymore. If you don’t know the way to the road ahead, sometimes it’s enough to avoid the roads going in the wrong direction.

  12. “What if we really are too far gone? What if we can’t go back to that?”

    LOL – Here in the outer Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne, Australia – a few families have been asking that same question! We tend to think we are too far gone – but that it is VERY easy to slip back into the rhythm of traditional Church – if you let it! But, we’re comforted by the fact that there are others here in Australia and the World that also feel the same way. We’re wrestling with the question of “Ok, we’re never going back – but what does it mean to follow Jesus in the suburbian landscape of Melbourne?” And here we wrestle!

    Frank Viola has a great paper called “The Four Dimensions of The Church” that has been a great read and jumping off point for discssion with us. I think it is available on his website.

    Grace, remember you’re not alone out here!

  13. thanks for the post, grace. i feel like i can’t go back, yet i am going back because what alternative do i have to not going back? there isn’t one, at least not one that i can see. i don’t know, maybe i am like that weasely guy from the matrix and i just want to taste the steak again even if it is fake. yet that isn’t it completely, i want the real deal and understand it will not be some utopian dream world, but i have no idea the how/what/when/where/who. it is frustrating. i feel like there are some positive things about the church i’ve been going to over the past several month and that God has used it in my life. but i don’t want to get sucked in again to the rat race that “church” life can be. any thought of membership-esque classes or that sort of thing freak me out. thankfully, there isn’t a big push for that from the pulpit (there was a HUGE emphasis on that in my previous experience). i need and want a group of people to walk with through life. maybe i should look on Craig’s list. ;-)

  14. Grace, you crack me up. I am 100% with your plan. Right now, I’m doing nothing and when I’m done doing nothing, I’ll do something. I just sure as hell hope that the something I do is not anything like the something that I’ve seen and experienced. I think though, that I may do nothing for a really long time.

  15. Have found that doing nothing can mean visiting your relatives ie. the sick and the widow. And all in the name of Jesus not church. I would like this to extend but I guess it’s about being faithful in what God gives you at the time. Been through alot of frustrations but believe we need to have faith in God – not so glamerous as it sounds but life-giving.

  16. two [semi-subversive] thots:

    1. re: Murky Vision, i always just thought that’s what sabbath is about – a time of withdrawal from the usual activity in order to recharge by rest for the rest of the week.

    2. and since all the vision types had “M” words with them, may i suggest a missing category of “Anti-M Vision”? you know … Anti M! Anti M! click your heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.” or is Anti-M about anti-matter, as in, the missing matter doesn’t matter right now?

    hmmm. since #2 is Anti-M, would #1 be Ante-M?

    okay not the best of jokes, though i’m in pretty good humors, considering it’s before 7 AM. and since it was all about oranges anyway, i think it’s time for breakfast and contemplation of the sound of one orange peeling/pealing …

  17. If only there was a way to harness the wit and wisdom around here :) One of the reasons I had to leave my CLB was not being a team player. I just could never understand why so many people spent an inordinate amount of time planning the”perfect” worship service when those hours could be used outside the church to contribute in a positive way. How have we lost sight of the fact that Jesus went out and traveled among the people, not hog tied and guilt tripped them to coming in to a perfectly kept church? Kim

  18. “Why are an orange?”

    Scripturally, I think there are at least two possible answers:

    1. “the patch from the new will not match the old”
    2. “no one after drinking the old wants the new”

    There might be a third, but it’s a little trickier:

    3. “Follow me.”

  19. Grace, You and your friends are all wonderfully nuts. I mean that in the best sense of the word. I don’t understand the banana orange motorcycle thing but I know a thing or two about what do we do now. Ok…I don’t really know that either. Thanks for blogging about what you don’t know. I’ve learned a lot over the last year. I kind of like that you haven’t got it all figured out. I’m suspicious of those who have all the answers.

  20. Great post. I’m a first-time commenter here at Kingdom Grace. And I like the conversation that I’ve been seeing so far. Thanks for being honest about your own thoughts and questions. And for taking yourself seriously (in a good and humorous way)–making space for new ideas/ways/possibilities. It’s helpful for all of us would-be Jesus followers and family.

    Here’s a question that started floating through my head as I listened to everyone’s comments. What do we do with Mega Churches in emerging circles? For instance, Mars Hill (either brand I guess)–Rob Bell in particular writes about some of the very things Grace posted above. Does he get a pass simply because he’s “emerging”? What do we do with his or other missionally-minded Christian communities of faith?

  21. Doing nothing is what I am all about.. Ok not really I am afraid a lot of my not doing is about being lazy. I agree that we shouldn’t have all the answers and I am also especially suspect of people who seem to be so sure about what is the right thing to do.
    I also think that if you are feeling fulfilled in an institutional church setting you should by all means continue doing what God is leading you to do.
    I guess for me that leading is looking more outward and less about self fulfillment through religious experience. I loved going to prayer meetings where I was encouraged to pray in tongues and lay hands on one another. But, I think when all becomes drudgery, we need to step back and see it for what it is. God has used the institution in my life to shape the very ideas that cause me to want to break away from it now. Somehow, my random act of kindness now seems to be more of the work that God has for me than putting that $20 in the offering plate.
    A lot of people that are still in the institution don’t get that part. Love is more important than preaching and Preaching can in fact be the opposite of love.
    Sorry, kind of off on a tangent there. The thing is , I don’t know what I’m doing. I have a hard enough time with my own family and I don’t feel I can really be an example to any one. But I also know that Jesus loved, First the people who were closest to Him then the others and everyone he came in contact with. That seems like a clearer , intentional goal for me any way. To just love and let the theologians argue their points . My life is a bit to short to pend it arguing.

  22. Jason – if you’re new here – “Mars Hill” are two four letter words – just thought I’d advise. Not too many passes to those folks – especially the fat man. (that’s what I call the pastor leader, senior elder – or the top person in the food chain at a local church).

    I’m sure Moses thought he was doing nothing on the back side of the desert for 40 years. I’m sure Joseph thought he was doing nothing after Potifer had him thrown in jail. I’m sure Jacob was doing nothing the 14 years he served for two wives. In fact I’m quite sure the Bible is full of people doing nothing – and then suddenly – without ado – you’re ready now — time to launch …..

    Not too concerned about the nothingness – God really is doing something in your life.

  23. I havn’t figured out – what makes sense, that’s why I am pragmatic- eclectic, I’m glad I do have some answers thought but I do not have the THE answer – Douglas Adams reckoned it was 42 (I think).

    For us to claim the final form, means we should write a book, a didactic , so that others can propagate our final form to the letter and then we become as established as the established we left behind.

    I kind of enjoy the journey, frustrating – yes – leaving the secure and the established behind but discovering that what lies ahead is just as secure and established. my greatest discovery is the incarnational aspect of all this – beig His voice, hands and feet in the world in which I live, that is my worship to Him.

  24. Jerry, thanks for responding to my comment. I pretty much knew that Mars Hill (again, either version) would be considered more or less part of the problem or, better put, prime examples for why this post might have been written in the first place. Yet, and this may sound like a silly question, what’s the difference? I could imagine Rob Bell saying very similar kinds of things compared with what Grace articulated. I understand he is the “fat man” (a great phrase!) but what difference does that make? Do I enter into the unknown (a la this post) or the unknown (a la Emerging Mega Church pastor)? Hmmm…

  25. barb,
    I wonder if our husbands meeting would be a good thing? ;)

    alan,
    I think the metaphor of family is great. Structures and services tend to confuse and complicate this simple understanding of church.

    Good thoughts katherine.

    wilsonian,
    Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m more worried about going back or of not going back. Depends on which day you ask me.

    Thanks Neal,
    I don’t know if Frank’s writing is helping me or helping to ruin me. LOL.

    davida,
    I could certainly relate to the ambivalence in your comment. It seems that detox is a bit of a love/hate relationship. Let me know if you find anything good on Craig’s list.

    fr’nklin,
    You’ve got mail (after I have one more glass of wine.) :)

    ali,
    So true. I think that it sometimes hard for us to distinguish true lack of fruitful purpose from the things that were previously glamorous or fulfilling.

    Great post Cindy!

    brad,
    Something about Kansas, tornadoes, and homes blown apart may fit into this post (and perhaps root canals.)

    OMG, Kimberly?! You weren’t a team player?!
    Great comment anyway.

    ken,
    I think that I am slowly learning these answers.

    david,
    I have plenty of material for blogging what I don’t know.

    jason,
    Welcome, nice to meet you.
    My beef with mega-churches isn’t the size so much as the imperialistic attitude of expansion of influence and control. The determining factor would be whether as things grow there is a release of power and ownership to others or if there is just an expanding circle of control and ownership. Can larger churches serve in ways that aren’t self-serving? I think that I would agree with Rob Bell in many areas, and he doesn’t strike me as an empire-building type of person.

    shaun,
    Great comments. We cannot discount the fact that many of us have experienced growth within the institutional setting. Loving intentionally seems like a worthwhile goal. I have no idea what your last comment meant. :)

    jerry,
    Jerry, I think pretty highly of Rob Bell. Great comment. As you can see, it was encouraging.

    mark,
    I loved your last paragraph. The journey into incarnational living is what it’s all about.

  26. Jason, Grace:

    Sorry for my half read of “Mars Hill” – anyway – while I’m doing nothing this week – I’ll dedicate some time to finding out who Rob Bell is and what he thinks. I don’t feel too bad about not knowing who Rob is – I’m sure he’s never heard of me either :)

  27. Jerry,
    No problem. I wasn’t necessarily defending Rob as much as making sure he wasn’t lumped in with the other Mars Hill pastor. They couldn’t be more different.

  28. “The other Mars Hill pastor …”

    Wow! This says so much about your discernment – and your gracious character.

    Great post.

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