This past weekend we went to see some of my family in central Indiana. Not a tremendously exciting place to visit – but hey – I love my family. As we were traveling through miles and miles and miles and miles and…. of farmland… I couldn’t help but thank God that my life was not intended for farming. It also got my mind started down one of those rabbit trails where you just go from one thing to another at the speed of light… For instance, as we were driving through miles and miles and miles and miles and…. of farmland, I started thinking… How do they care for all of this? I can barely keep up with my yard and I have pretty much killed every single houseplant we have ever had – unintentionally of course! I also know nothing about machinery – tractors, combines (what the heck is that anyway?) and the only experience I have with repairing motors on anything is occasionally looking through the glass from the waiting room at the mechanics when I get my car worked on. I wonder where they store all of that equipment? Barns I guess… I wonder if they keep the cows and the tractors in the same barn or if they have multiple barns for multiple purposes. What are those tall cylindrical thingys that sometimes sit next to barns? Oh yeah silos. I wonder if they still use silos and what do they store in them? How long do things stay good in a silo? I wonder if the Hobbit will be as good as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy?… (Don’t worry – that’s normal for me… at some point my brain always jumps the tracks and I’m on to something else…)
But the silos thing has stuck with me. It actually triggered something that has always bothered me – The Church as a silo. The Church has become something God never intended and that certainly Jesus never taught while He was on Earth. The Church – our churches – have become a bunch of silos – operating independently of one another. Silos care nothing for other silos. Their only purpose is to store and protect their own stuff, contents (people, assets). What happens in other silos is of no concern to any other silo. Silos just take care of themselves and their own contents. The only relationship silos really share is if one silo should be damaged or destroyed then hopefully another silo can absorb the contents of the one that “is no more.” To think about silos “helping” one another is ridiculous.
Now if we are talking about a silo on a farm that’s exactly what you want. Take care of bidness! But when our churches behave in this way – we can’t really say we are focused purely on Kingdom Building – we have strayed somewhat in to Empire Building.
I have met recently with 3 pastors from 3 other churches in Cincinnati. The 1st was to discuss a joint venture to help in a community project. The 2nd was to just get to know one another and try and build a bridge between us. The 3rd was to discuss a need our church has that I hoped they might be able to help with.
The 1st meeting was awesome. We both agreed that our churches have spent too much time in the past existing exclusively from one another. We duplicate effort and energy that could be spent so much more wisely. Rather than duplicating each other how much more could be accomplished if we complimented each other. We had a great, honest conversation about how suspicious our churches were of one another. The things he thought he knew about us were completely false – and vice versa! We also acknowledged that just because we could have that conversation – it was sad that it was not going to be an easy fix.
The 2nd meeting… not as awesome. As men – we got a long well. We shared some of the same likes/dislikes. We saw eye to eye on several things we discussed but I am pretty sure nothing is going to change between our churches. I got the feeling he didn’t see any need for us to proceed any further than this one time lunch. I pray I am wrong. I really enjoyed hanging out with him and I want to do so again soon… I’ll pursue it and let you know.
The 3rd – well that one was super discouraging!! Weirdly – I liked this pastor the best of all 3! He was a great guy and we hit it off. His response to hearing about our need that I hoped his church might be able to help with though was – “sorry – we don’t do that.” Now I already know your response might be – well they have a right to say yes or no to what they want… It’s their money, their resources, their perogative. (That’s all true – but I don’t think that approach furthers the Kingdom.) Maybe you are thinking well maybe they differ theologically and that’s why he said no. (Nope that didn’t even come up… and we don’t.) I left that meeting feeling really down…
(I actually have tried multiple times to set up a meeting with a 4th pastor … no return phone call. And our churches carry the same “we aren’t a denomination” demoninational name. Ahh well…)
All 3 scenarios really point to silo-ism… (I think I just coined a new phrase!) Ever since denominations began forming – individual churches stopped focusing on being part of The Church – The Bride of Christ – collectively and started focusing on Main Street (Insert Denomination Here) Church as The Bride Of Christ. We say little phrases like – we’re all on the same team… we’re all just wanting to build the Kingdom… we don’t compete with other churches. In reality – those may be true in thought but very rarely in practice. Think I am exaggerating? When is the last time you heard about a church raising millions of dollars and then offering it to help sister churches in need. I heard about a church a few years ago that raised more money than they had even asked for – and they decided to go with the “super-upcharged-mamma-jamma-video-screens” instead of the ones they had planned originally because – well hey… it was their money.
I want to see this change. Naive you say? Yes – I guess it is… but I can still want it. I love to think about a day when the church I serve in has the resources to step in and help another church. No strings attached. Yes – I am talking about Christ centered churches… Not other religions, cults, etc…. yes I understand we don’t want to help anyone who is promoting a false theology, heresy, etc…stop thinking of scenarios! – We all know a dozen churches probably who are being the hands and feet of Christ in their community and are struggling financially.
PLEASE DO NOT EMAIL me and say that I am discounting the fact that churches with lots of resources do lots of good. Yes – I know that they do. I know that many use their funds in missions. I know that many are striving to change the world. I know that many help widows and orphans and families in need in their communities. I know all of that and yes it is amazing what many churches are doing!! I just believe we can do it so much better when we pool together. When we exhort one another. When we encourage one another. When we pray for one another. When we pick one another up when we fall. When we focus on the Kingdom rather than our empires. When we focus on the name of Jesus rather than our own branding.
Do I want a utopian society? Yep. Is it a pipe dream? Only as long as we continue to discount the need for unity and cooperation amongst our sister churches and remember the example of the 1st Century Church.
Ahhhh but what do I know? I am the most unlikely pastor you’ll ever meet!