Church 101, or “It’s about the relationships, stupid”

April 11, 2006

Original Post Date:  4/11/2006

It's taken me a long time, but in my own theology, I've finally figured out that the whole purpose of theology isn't to describe intricate rules of existence or to tell us any deep secrets other than this:  it's all about relationships.  The Bible is a history of God's relationship with people of faith through time, and the narrative of those people as they learn to relate both with God and one another within the confines of that relationship.

It sounds easy, but it's not, really.  For some reason, human nature is to want to over-institutionalize everything until the original intent gets lost, changed, or mutated into something else.  The relationship we have given to us in Scripture has gotten formed into the huge institution of the church, with giant policy, polity, and doctrine surrounding it.  Not that its all bad, its just big.  Sometimes that big-ness can overshadow the original intent – maintaining relationship with God and each other.  I think that is part of what the debate is about right now – is the intent of the institution of the church to maintain relationship or is it to enforce doctrine?

Of course, for those who believe that the institution's role is to enforce doctrine, I can understand where they are coming from.  Church doctrine was a necessary common bond for many years in order for relationships to form.  I mean, its a lot easier to get people to form relationships if you force them to come into the same room and worship once a week, especially if you only allow one church in town.  I think that time has passed, though.  That isn't to say that there isn't usefulness in doctrine, it is just not the primary purpose of the church any more.  In my view, the church's primary purpose should be to build relationship.  It should help its consitituents build relationships among each other, and teach them how to build stronger relationships with God through spiritual practice.  We still need doctrine to help us govern our lives, but that is a more personal process, one that is meant to be discerned on our spiritual journey using Scripture as a resource.  With six billion people on the planet how could there possibly be a "one-size-fits-all" doctrine?  There are so many personality types, so many cultures, so many deep personal issues to reckon with and grapple before being able to reconcile with Christ and find that wonderful place of grace which is open to all that it is impractical, if not impossible to place such a burden on an institution.  Christ himself tells us he has other flocks, asserting the same thing.

To try and order up the "one-size-fits-all" institution with doctrine at the forefront is really getting the cart before the horse.  You can try it, you can probably even get everything set up and maybe go a few feet, but you won't go nearly as far as if you get it the other way around.


One Response to “Church 101, or “It’s about the relationships, stupid””

  1. […] Church 101 or “It’s about the relationship, stupid” […]

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