9/21/2008

How missions get twisted

How did animal shelters founded to prevent cruelty to pets wind up as efficient killing machines for the very pets they were founded to protect?

16 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Very nice analogy! Thanks, Keith.

Heath said...

Good points. I'm always curious as to why people sometimes put more emphasis on treating animals "humanely" than humans. Would that mean we were treated people "animally?"

David Drury said...

I think this analogy is dead on. Makes you really think.

Three thoughts from me:
1) It reminds me of the writings of Shane Claiborne an Brian MacLaren... particularly Shane's "Jesus for President." It reminds me that the church is sometimes so off-mission that it's actually detrimental to it's own cause.
2) It reminds me of Keirkegaard (if here were alive today I think he would have turned this into a parable)... and how he wrote scathing critiques of his Christianized culture that in fact was not Christian at all.
3) It makes me wonder what "the list" would be... what are the things we should be AGAINST or FOR that we are actually CAUSING or PREVENTING as the church. And what things are we perhaps "party" to and "enable" even if they are not "mission planks." I bet this list could be far longer than we suspect.

-David

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thanks David for your analysis. But, I disagree with you as to formulating a "radicalized faith", and setting that in opposition to reason. It is not a universalization of Kiergaard's "leap in the dark", unless one is compelled to do that. The Church's judgment should not be based on any speicific theologian's views, as far as in regards to another person's convictions.

The Church should undersatnd itself as a open-ended organization that allow individuals to grow and assume their own personal identity. This means that there is no one else that defines the role or function of another. The person themselves must be covicted ans passionate about their calling. And then, depending on the Church's need, there is "negotiation". As Keith points out there should not be a "taking of life" for the purpose of mission. Mission is the person's call within the wider call of the Church's broader purposes, which includes the political realm.

This means that the Church should influence society in its values, but not identify those values so stringently that they can not be reassessed...this is sociological and cultural change. That certainly progressives within the Church always are affirming.

Conclusion: The Church should not politicize another's life and take it for the Chruch's own benefit! I don't think there should be a Nazi Christian!

John D. Howell said...

I like the analogy, Keith. Here’s my thoughts.

To recap: Here we have an organization who’s motive is to save animals but the sad truth is that they ultimately have to kill the animals.

It’s same thing with the church. We have an organization who’s motive is to save the lost but the sad truth is that in most churches when the lost come knocking they are greeted with certain death because they choose not to conform to what Sister Ruth or Brother Bob think they need to do in order to be a “Christian”.

Taking it a bit further, the initial vision Jesus gave for the church was simple, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39) Jesus followed that up with the great commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing the in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

Jesus kept things pretty simple, but over the course of 2000 years, we’ve complicated it into an unrecognizable mess. Instead of keeping things simple – the church has quickly become irrelevant in a culture and timespace that is desperate for relevancy.

What makes Claiborne, MacLaren, and even Keirkegaard’s thoughts so riveting to us is that at the very heart of their lives and writings, they longed to have a deep and intimate relationship with God and they desired others to experience that as well. They keep/kept it pretty simple – love God, love people and reach the lost.

I think that’s a wise perspective for the church to begin transitioning to because there are a lot of people who have never loved or been loved fully and completely and they are desperately searching for anything and everything that could give them that love. I think that’s an important role that the church needs to fulfill.

Chap said...

No offense john--but I do not see clairborne, mclearan or kirkegaard (philosophers) as people who amplify or simplify Jesus' mission and vision for the church. I could put a Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll and squeeze in a Rob Bell and Erwin McManeus (all practicioners) to be fair.

In fact, the humane center may be a more accurate analogy for how complicated the church of Jesus is.

Even though humane centers kill thousands of unwanted pets--it saves thousands more. Are we supposed to stop serving on it's board or wish for it's demise because it doesn't completely fulfill it's mission?

Perhaps this is the ugliness and beauty of the church on this side of the fall and the other side of eternity.

The church of Jesus is not perfect (yet), but it is the best and greatest hope for humankind's deepest longing.

Buck up people!

shawnbarr said...

Thought provoking.

I'd say the church's situation is not quite as backwards as the humane society.

However, we do get off mission very easily. I'd say one of our biggest problems is not being focused enough of what Christ has called us to do...make disciples.

At our church we are way to fractured in our ministry efforts. We have multiple children's ministries, multiple music ministries, sports ministries, community service events, and on and on. But how many "disciples" are we making? Some no doubt; but we could be doing much better.

I think the book, "Simple Church" is going to help us get on track a little better.

The hard part is learning to say "no" to good ministries in favor of being more focused.

Elizabeth Glass-Turner: named Bitty by quirky Canadian said...

Gosh, the church is the living extension of the Body of Christ, but maybe part of how missions get twisted is when the only leadership people can think of to compare greatness to is male! McLaren, Claiborne, Graham, Hybels?
What about Mother Teresa, Nancy Beach, Kay Warren - have you read her articulate, compelling book? - Lauren Winner, Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. Just so everyone knows, these women DON'T just write for women, on womens' issues, whatever those are.

Schuyler Avenue Wesleyan said...

I agree with Chap. I strongly disagree with John D. Howell.

As a young Wesleyan pastor I believe that we are losing our holiness values because we tend to point out the right wing "ister Ruth or Brother Bob" but yet appreciate liberal out of context authors such as MacLaren.

With the church's mission there needs to be found a balance between living a Holy life devoid of legalism but full of mentoring, dicipleship and accountablity and living a Holy life, that just resembles everyone else.

Outside-the-Beltway Drury said...

I am surprised no one has made the connection of this article to the "back bench" rumblings at the Wesleyan General Conference four years ago. The theme being that the Wesleyan Church had been closing more churches than it opened. The discussion at that time seemed to hinge on statistical interpretations that didn't particularly interest me, but the theme was quite clear.

Are institutional churches more effective "euthanizing" congregations than opening them? I suspect big main line denominations are off the charts in euthanizing congregations (or at least recovering the carcasses of the long-dead).

In fact sometimes denominational leaders even carry that kind of label. During my time working in the FM church, I remember a significant lay member describing one of their long-serving Bishops as a "closer." Ouch! Not exactly the kind of emeritus status a church leader aspires to.

In the last six weeks I have spoken to two Wesleyan pastors (one active, one retired) who carry some hurt over how churches they loved were "euthanized" by a district and the property sold "for the money." In each case, the given justification was to focus more on core "mission" (i.e. getting rid of dead weight) but those actually involved in the local congregations interpreted it as "mission drift."

Keith Drury said...

Beltway Scott: Great application I missed in the original thinking... HA! As I recall we passed legislation last summer to make euthanizing these "crippled" churches easier didn't we?

Christy said...

Perhaps I'm looking at this a bit off, but we'll go with it...

Let me preface my comment with this - I love strategic planning, organization, logic, and purposefulness. I also love my church. But in my experience, my church (and other churches) seems to lack strategic planning, organization, logic, and purposefulness. Although most churches have some kind of mission statement that someone wrote somewhere sometime, we do what we do because it’s been done for 100 years regardless of its alignment with or application to our mission statement. We have our Sunday Schools, small groups, special dinners, food pantries, service projects, outreach programs, mission fairs, festivals, and the list goes on and on. But do the things we do align with our mission? Do they meet the needs of our community? Are the purposeful? Let’s be honest with ourselves - are our programs achieving the results we intended for them to achieve? Are they moving us toward accomplishing our ultimate objectives and goals? Or do we not even have a true focus in the first place?

It’s been said that – Jesus made church easy and church is just irrelevant to today’s generation. Yes, Jesus’ message may have been “simple,” but he was indeed intentional in his actions and words. I don’t always think it is the complexities that make the church irrelevant today; rather, it is the lack of purposefulness, organization, and strategic planning. Maybe the church would be more relevant to today’s generation if it were intentional in fulfilling its mission through purposeful, focused ministries.

I worked with my church to plan a ministry fair a year ago. It was an incredibly frustrating experience. I wanted each booth to showcase a ministry and to include a brief description of the ministry, an explanation of how the ministry aligned with the church mission statement, a summary of accomplishments/activities for the previous year, a list of goals and needs for the coming year, and contact information for others who want to be involved. Many individuals could see no value in looking at their ministry in this light.

Let’s talk about the church in general again… If we were honest, some of the ministries don’t align with our mission or meet local body or community needs. Most ministries don’t have an idea whether or not they have accomplished anything in the last year nor do they have a plan for the future. Several ministries fall short of what we want them to be and do, but rather than acknowledge that and make adjustments, we keep doing and doing. We talk in generalities about what the church should and should not do, but we rarely (if ever) take the time to reflect on and evaluate our ministries or strategically plan what we should do next. As long as the church continues to lack intentional action, it will continue to be less relevant and align poorly with its mission.

Euthanization of animals does not align with the Humane Society’s mission, but then again do the church’s “ministries” align with the church’s mission? My heart’s desire is for a passionate church that is intentional in its ministries because it insures that each activity aligns with its mission, fits in its strategic plan, is organized, and purposeful.

Christy said...

Let me add this - I never condone planning without prayer. I do not take intentionality to disregard the leading or moving of the Holy Spirit. When I speak of planning and purposefulness in the church my assumption is that it starts with God and aligns with His will. I’m also not saying that ministries that don’t align with our mission statement are not good programs – rather, I’m saying they do not align with our mission statement. I can do many good things from 8 to 5 at work, but just because it is a good thing does not mean it aligns with my job expectations. I feel that we too often forgo proper planning, preparation, and reflection because we throw it back that we are “trusting God” or “leaving it in His hands.” I can trust God, but you won’t find me sitting quietly in a sinking boat. We have minds, gifts, talents, abilities, etc. that God expects us to use in our life, work, church, community, and world to bring glory to Him and further His kingdom. I’m weary of passive Christians waiting on God.

Pastor James said...

Dr. Drury,

I think its obvious in the past two columns that there are a lot of frustrated pastors and leaders out there serving churches that are not fulfilling their mission. I loved the quote that said, "I'm getting tired of passive Christians waiting on God." I think this is an excuse we use sometimes in the church especially if we don't completely agree with the idea.

I think you ought to keep pursuing theses ideas and put them into another column about whether or not the Wesleyan church is truly living up to it's mission. What is our mission? One of my favorite articles of all time that you wrote is titled, "The Holiness Movement is Dead." I'd like to know where that movement is today. Is it still dead? Has it been born again? Would our parents and grandparents call it a movement toward God or a movement moving away from God? In the district I served last year more people died in our district than were saved in our churches. I believe this answers our questions of whehter or not we are fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ.

Keith Drury said...

PASTOR JAMES... here is the most recent
mission/vision statment by Wesleyan leaders .........

VISION... "Equipping and empowering churches for Great Commission ministries in the spirit of the Great Commandment."

Mission Statement......

To exalt Jesus Christ by:
•Evangelizing the lost
•Discipling the believers
•Equipping the Church
•Ministering to Society

Tim Hawk said...

In a broader, more concise thought: Perhaps "Christians" marching with signs that state, "God hates fags" fits into the category of participating in the very thing they were founded to prevent!