I now have the freedom to visit churches that my previous schedule and responsibilities did not often allow. While I can’t say I’ve come anywhere near experiencing the full spectrum of churches and worship styles, the variation has been significant, ranging from liturgical to Apostolic-Pentecostal. In every church, I felt welcomed and sensed warmness and receptivity to me as a stranger. That’s always a good sign.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited a church that was not on my to visit list. A week earlier, I reached out to a friend I hadn’t spoken with for a while, thinking that he might be free to hang-out by going to church with me. As it turns out, he had been invited to sing with a men’s choir at a church, and asked me if I would spend my Sunday morning there. So that’s where I went.
The pastor spoke on Ephesians 1:8-10: “…With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” A key point in her message was the disunity we see, and often experience, not only in humanity, but in all of creation including the animal world and in the environment. That disunity is disconnected from GOD’s original intention for His creation.
This pastor’s message led me to think about the role of the church in reflecting and facilitating the fulfillment that will bring unity. I was sitting there with a seemingly nice, sincere group of believers intent on worshipping GOD and enjoying fellowship with each other as they do each Sunday, knowing that all over the county and beyond, other nice, sincere believers were doing the same thing in their churches.
During my corporate years, emphasis was placed on making sure business functions (sales, marketing, finance, information technology, etc.) did not become operational silos. Traditional silos are physical structures used on farms to store harvested products like corn, wheat, and soy.
Silos are typically vertical in shape which is why the term was adopted for business application. Businesses use it as a metaphor for focusing only on what is important to a specific business function, without much regard to what is important to other functions or even the entire business. Strong partnerships across business functions (horizontal relationships) were always viewed as the antidote to this kind of organizational behavior which, left to their own devices, may reflect a purely vertical approach.
I wonder, to what extent are churches silos? It’s not uncommon for local churches to be encouraged by their denominations to fellowship with other churches within the same denomination, and events are often created to provide an umbrella for this. Even independent churches do this with other independents when they share some things in common. In these cases, however, the involved churches do not always share the same geography which can make connecting a significant, if not extraordinary, effort.
Local ministeria (clergy associations) sometimes try to bridge these gaps. Some are more successful than others. Some, however, have difficulty agreeing on the elements of the annual Easter program, no less having regular cross-church fellowship.
Clergy associations aside, how are we doing connecting with that church down the street or around the corner or a short drive away? They occupy the same geography. How might we fellowship with them for the sake of expanding the influence of the Kingdom of GOD? Is that something they’d be interested in or are they (and we) like a comfortable silo on a large farm, each storing a food product, separate and distinct from the others, but all belonging to the same farmer?
Have we allowed doctrinal differences, worship styles, and other externals to keep us in our silo and they in theirs, all of us nice, sincere believers striving for unity with those within our silo, but inattentive to the nice, sincere believers in the surrounding silos?
I think there’s evidence to support my silo theory, so I’m going to go with it. Perhaps a step in the right direction of reflecting and facilitating the fulfillment that brings unity is for all of us to work at building horizontal relationships with other local Christians, and not just vertical relationships within our respective churches. That’s going to mean doing some things differently. It will mean emphasizing some things less than is common now, and learning how to emphasize things brand new to our respective radars.
I think I’ll keep on visiting.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved for textual content.