Church Must Exist in Tension.
A community where everyone thinks the same way, feels the same way and shares the same opinions is not healthy and it’s not Church. Church, to exist in a healthy form and to function in a healthy way requires tension. We must welcome criticism, they may be right. We need to create safe space for disagreement and opposition. Community tension can keep us from making huge mistakes or keep us going when we’ve made one.
E: Right, so you’re saying that a church full of fighting and argument is the ideal?
CV: Ah, Ego, right on time. No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. There’s a difference between tension and conflict and a difference between conflict and aggressive behaviour.
E: Not at my house.
CV: Our house. I know, but it’s still true. Think of tension like the old school tent you used to put up at Boy Scout camp…
E: Shhhhh. I don’t like people to know I was a Boy Scout.
CV: Rrrright. O.K., imagine an old school tent. Centre poles, ropes going out to stakes in the ground. If it wasn’t for tension you’d be off centre and constantly about to collapse. A complete lack of tension and your tent falls flat. That’s good tension.
E: And how does your tent relate to the church?
CV: I think we’ve moved so far past healthy relationship that we’re convinced we’re enlightened and that tension is always bad and negative feelings are always wrong. We are threatened by disagreement…
E: I know I am!
CV: But we don’t have to be. It doesn’t make you wrong or mean the person disagreeing with you is bad or that you’re bad because they’re disagreeing with you. If Jesus really came to set us free for the sake of freedom a community that pursues his way of living and just as importantly his way of dying, must make room for freedom to disagree or dissent. Our tendency is to want a king. A king’s tendency is to want absolute devotion and compliance. We call it cooperation and respect.
E: I totally get that!
CV: But, we are to have only one king, one rabbi, one father. We’re all brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, working this mystery out between us.
CV: Sorry, I’m getting ahead of my theses. Forget I used the word “mystery”, I know it bugs you.
E: Forgotten. But I’m keeping my eye on you.
CV: No doubt.
E: So you’re saying there’s no one in charge here?
CV: No, I’m saying we’re all in charge here. The way healthy community works, to borrow from Paul and his letter to the church at Corinth, is like a body. Eyes take the lead in looking, mouth takes charge for chewing…
E: And communicating!
CV: You’d think, but not really, a great deal of our communication is non-verbal and your ears to listen are as important as your mouth to speak. It’s really an example of collaboration or what I would describe as consensus in the body. Sometimes the brain catches up with the mouth just in time to keep us from putting our foot in it!
E: Foot? How did a foot get into this?
CV: I’m just saying that we’re all connected and we need to invite and welcome tension, not shut it down, reject it, devise rules to avoid it or claim special status to make us exempt from it.
E: But I am special!
CV: Not in the way you feel you are. Not really. None of us are. It’s in our inter-connectedness that we realize how special we really are. An eye, plucked out of the body, might have great independence but misses it’s real significance. In the same way, we may not appreciate a certain part…
E: Like your nose, I hate your nose.
CV: Sigh. O.K., like my nose. Without this part, or with a sinus cold…
E: Or peas stuck up in it? Remember age 3?
CV: Yeah, missing, cold or pea stuffed, we recognize the importance of the part working well.
E: Blah, blah, blah. Heard this all before. I have read the Bible.
CV: Great, then can you tell me why you still want to be king when we already have one and why you bristle every time someone challenges your ideas or how you did something?
E: Jerk. So we vote on everything? Majority rules!
CV: No, that would be painful. And at some level you miss the point that the two may be the ones we need to listen to rather than the 10. Majority can get it horribly wrong. I’m suggesting we never vote.
CV: Voting makes winners and losers and assaults community rather than building it. I suggest dialogue and consensus building
E: Consensus? We have to wait ’til everyone likes my idea?
CV: By consensus I mean that we’ve talked and everyone feels heard and when a decision has to be made we get a feel for where we are at and move one way or the other. The dissenters agree to support publicly what they’ve disagreed about privately. The proponents keep in mind the points brought forward by the dissenters and answer or honour them. We listen to each other, a radical idea that requires relationship. This does create some issues as we keep going around communication. How does 1 of 3000 express their feelings, thoughts, ideas with the overall community if they never have access to most of the people or most of the people tasked with making a particular decision that will affect them all?
E: They just have to trust me and God will reward their faithfulness as faithfulness unto Him.
CV: Seriously? Have you not listened to a word I’ve written?