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.
I believe that “with all wisdom and understanding” is the answer to our problem. Many people would say we don’t have a problem because they don’t see the problem Yet the “silo effect” is a good analogy in our world today. Even in ministry we separate and segregate our worship of God by describing “our ministry” when in fact it is God’s ministry, and His alone.
I think gender, race, and wealth or the lack of it, has always been some of the points at which we are divided and it seems to stem from our desire to worship with those like us.
Can a millionaire be comfortable in regular worship with someone on welfare? Will the millionaire be offended by the welfare recipient or will the welfare recipient be offended by the millionaire’s wealth and have his or her focus drawn away from the worship of God by the “imaginary” better life of the millionaire?
For those of us that cannot accept that “all wisdom and understanding” comes from God and is to be applied to His creation, we are on a slippery slope.
The first century church seemed to have the right idea regarding wealth and poverty but “Communism” is a bad word in western society.
However, communism as applied to the needs of the people in the first century church seemed to work, “with all wisdom and understanding.”
Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you.”
This can be interpreted in many different ways but what I think it means is that “poor” can be applied to all or us who have our own standards for the kingdom of God.
Until we get it in our hearts and minds, “that all wisdom and understanding,” comes from God and is designed for our pleasure and enjoyment, we will continue to be a disjointed church (and I say that with the understanding of the worldwide church) and fail to glorify Him as He deserves.
Johnnie, thanks for your comment. This idea of people preferring sameness is something I’ve been wrestling with for some time, and I’ve broadened my thinking to include a belief that many local churches have this same preference. I don’t think it’s done intentionally, most of the time, but it happens just the same…probably because that’s the model of church most of us have seen in our lifetimes. If, in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female, no slave for free, then I think we need to break some eggs to make a different kind of omelet rather than subsist on the same-o-same o.