Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We have all had that dreaded experience, much less if you are a Mac user. All the functions of our computers come to a grinding halt. Nothing is working and we are left to restart. Once we restart, things start working like they were intended. Not all of life is a computer, at least not yet, but it remains true there comes time when we need to restart so things start working in their intended way. The church of Jesus Christ is no different. Throughout the journey of the the people called Israel, the people of God, there have come times when pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete have been necessary. Destruction of towers, great floods, and exile were all part of the attempt to return the people of God to their created function. The earthly pilgrimage of Jesus was in a effect a restart of the relationship of God and the people of God. People such as Phylis Tickle suggest since Christ about every 500 years the church goes through a restart process. I am suggesting we are at that point now.

In many ways the church is no longer functioning like it has been created to. In fact looking at the world of the church reveals more proximity with the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the Jesus day, than with Jesus. By and large the culture has stopped turning to the church for direction and started turning to anywhere else. Why? When the church is turned to the return is a religious system which short circuits a missional, relational and incarnational interaction with the Creator. In his book So Beautiful, and others, Leonard Sweet talks about the MRI church, Missional, Relational and Incarnational. In order to become such a place the church will need to restart. This does not mean what has always been is bad and of no value. Restarting does not mean everything is going to be scraped for the latest and greatest. Restarting means a return to the designed intention.

Restarting the church would return the church to understanding the creation of the church was not for organization, it was for being the mission of God. Being the mission of God requires organization but the organization supports the mission of God, not the mission of God supporting the organization. Pressing the restart buttons would return the church to a mindset of relationship with God through Jesus, and relationship of a community. This means more than simply knowing who God is, it is entering into community with others as we seek after a God who is seeking us. Finally restarting would move Jesus off the pictures on the wall into our day-to-day lives. I find myself treating Jesus as a memorial figure. Someone who once lived, was great, changed the course of the world but is dead. Jesus is alive, resurrection, not only alive, Jesus is with us this very moment. An incarnational Jesus is one who is amongst the people, real and tangible with and through the community called the church.

Unlike restarting a computer restarting the church is a much more involved process. There is also more at stake in restarting the church than a computer. Let me be clear, if we do not act the work of God will not be derailed. Simply we will not experience life as we are created to experience it. Still there is great struggle ahead in restarting the church. There is not reason to think we will have it any easier than Jesus himself did in addressing an organization that has lost its essence of existence. Just like Jesus it starts small and builds momentum. It starts when individuals decide there is more to life than they are experiencing. It grows when those individuals form a community that is missional, relational and incarnational.

The restarting of the church is underway. There are people and communities who have decided to return to life as offered at creation. Likewise there are people and communities committed to keeping things as they have been for the past 5 centuries. For the rest of us, we must do some serious seeking to see where it is that God is at work.

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