Wednesday, May 21, 2008

its about power

I flew back with someone from my congregation today. She was on a surprise trip home. As we flew, we talked about her work. It’s a new job, working not within a large hospital, but instead visiting homes in the community.

Her eyes sparkled as she talked about being in the home of another. She’s now a guest, dependant on hospitality of another. She loses power. And she loves it.

I told her about my day with the Salvation Army leadership. How I used Luke 10:-12, to encourage the church out of the institution and into the community. And the text encourages hospitality.

Last week Prodigal and I talked back and forth about the relationship between mission and worship (see the comments especially). And Paul has blogged more here.

The airplane/workplace conversation today helped me clarify things. For centuries the church has been in a place of power. Worship and spiritual formation are so easily placed within that place of power. People come to us, and we remain at the center of the conversations.

When you start with mission, in the homes of another, worship and formation are much more likely to emerge from places of powerlessness. Which to me seems to be what the way of Jesus was about.

I am not suggesting in any what that by going, sitting, dwelling, our gospel is diluted. I am rather drawing attention to the hidden power that so insidiously corrupts our imagination.

Posted by steve at 05:40 PM


  1. I am reminded of a great comment you made at the “Sharpening the Middle” conference in Welly. “What if we came as doves not wolves? What if we have no power?”

    That thought has stuck with me ever since then. And will continue to disturb me.

    Comment by Jono — May 24, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

  2. Hi Steve

    Sure, in a Christendom context when the church was at the “centre” of society) it was often about power. In a post-colonial, post-Christendom context I think we’re (overly?) sensitive about issues of power and so we emphasise a passage like Luke 10:1-12 in which we “go” (lovingly, trustingly, vulnerably, humbly and power-less-ly); we “go”, reliant upon the welcome and hospitality of the “other”. I think these are important characteristics of the missionary, an important underpinning for who and how we are in our various contexts. But they can simply be another way of clothing power, making it less obvious…

    At the heart of Jesus’ ministry, it could be argued, was both a clash – Ephesians 6:12. God-created, but fallen (cf. Wink, Stringfellow) – and an exercise of “power(s)” – the power of life versus death, love versus hatred, justice versus injustice, Empire versus (Peaceable) Kingdom, Jesus’ calling of 12 apostles (and thus his excluding of others from that ‘elite’ group) etc. Jesus was “for” and “against”, an exercise of power. Perhaps the question is to what end power is used… rather than no power at all…

    I would want to agree that “worship and spiritual formation are so easily placed within that place of power” and thus we get the tendency, when churches prioriterise identity and power over “mission” and service, to control and regulate who is “in” and who is “out” with respect to discipleship and worship (I’m thinking here of a Catholic understanding of Eucharist (and other sacraments) which is exclusive rather than inclusive).

    That said though, “worship” and “formation” are needfully placed within the life of a church community (and thus within structures of power). I worship, am formed, am nurtured and am protected within a community (though for me that doesn’t look like a traditional church community that gathers on a Sunday morning – so perhaps I’m outside of conformist power plays) that gives itself away for the other and for the sake of the world. A community forms me.

    Church and power don’t have to be synonymous. Equally they don’t have to be antithetical to each other. Power (e.g. advocacy) can be used for good; so again, I want to resist an easy dualism.

    Comment by Paul Fromont — May 25, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  3. this is really helpful discussion paul. thankyou.

    i would not want to place mission in opposition to worship and formation.

    luke 10 is part of 10 chapter of luke, the travelogue, as jesus is on the road. as i read the text, I see worship and formation placed within the contours of mission. it occurs around table, with the other, in light of peace and naming the Kingdom.

    for me, that’s where i want to place it at the moment. i want my worship and formation to be shaped by the other, by hospitality, trusting the Spirit to form what is unformed, rather than be the residues and concretations of christendom.

    as soon as worship and formation are made central, we are back to Sunday at 10 defining the conversation.

    and the journeys of the dechurched and the missionary heart of Jesus are too precious to have marginalised by existing.

    at easter sunday this year, ( our artist kicked a door open. and i suddenly realised that when Jesus arose, he walked out of the tomb. he told mary not to hold him and he wandered an emmaus road and he visited work places and he ascended. and in that wandering and in that ascension gap we can find identity. but it is identity as seekers, not as owners.

    enriched by the dialogue


    Comment by steve — May 25, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

  4. thanks Jono. i have continued to ponder that comment/moment as well. it seemed to be quite “Spirited” and it did help to articulate some things that have been gnawing for quite a while.

    it might be my anabaptist roots.


    Comment by steve — June 3, 2008 @ 11:27 am

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