Do you remember science classes in high school? Other than Bunsen burners and the Van der Graff Generator, me neither! One thing that you learn in biology is about life. All living things apparently have 7 life processes that indicate that they are in fact living. Perhaps you recall MRS NERG… (Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Nuitrition, Excretion, Reproduction and Growth). If all living things have these processes then surely the church (if it is alive) must also have them.
The church of the West is showing signs that it is losing these processes. The church is shrinking, not growing; the church is not reproducing but rather repealing; the church has got clogged up with dogma and needs a massive dump; the church often claims to enjoy the quality nuitriants of scripture but frequently over indulges on the bits that appeal and doesn’t have a balanced and healthy diet; instead of showing sensitivity the church has become overly sensitive, defensive and argumentative; the church is just about breathing – though praying more for it’s own survival rather than giving up its life for the sake of others as Jesus demonstrates; and any movement that challenges the habitual unhealthy diet and encourages dealing with the constipation of dogma is shot down with the gusto of an obese man shouting instructions at the TV screen towards the elite sports person suggesting he could do better.
The traditional religious word for moving or journeying is pilgrim. The church too often acts as though it has arrived. As though it is somehow the incarnation of heaven on earth. If you’ve ever stepped foot in a church you will probably agree that if that is what heaven is like you’d rather end up somewhere else. The church has not arrived, any church that thinks it has or acts accordingly is a dying church.
To journey, to be pilgrims the church needs to be moving. A particular building may stay but in order to remain alive, to engage with the culture around it, even the building needs to be moved around. It is the people who make up the church who really need to be moving, our hearts and minds moving with the times. The message and witness of the church is and should be constant – the worship and witness of an u changing, loving God, incarnated in Jesus Christ. It is the means of that message and witness being shared needs to adapt to the context.
Some journeys require planning, others are wild adventures with little planning and simply a sense of going where the opportunities open up. Whatever the journey there is a need to move but also to pause for rest and food; it’s good to stop to take in the scenery or enjoy a diversion to experience something unique. Perhaps you join others a journey together for a while; maybe you meet people a choose to stay with them for a short time as you enjoy oneanothers company.
I have friends who have been away travelling and returned home as planned, the journey over as planned. Others have taken longer than planned as they enjoyed the adventure and had flexibility to change arrangements. Others never made it home, rather home became the place they stopped.
To journey requires listening (to one another and to those who act as guides). We need the explorers who willing go before the majority, taking risks but learning routes to prepare the way and provide guidance. We must listen to those we meet when we enter new places – they know it better than we do. Moving keeps us healthy, movement keeps the other life processes in balance. If the church is a body we need to keep moving to keep the body healthy.