Head First: Lose Control

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lose Control

While I was moaning about the fraud that is organized religion, Jeff mentioned the inevitability of organization when any degree of "missional" success is achieved among believers. He brought up the emergent movement's need to band together, "otherwise they'll run amok." Any time someone comes up with a way to "do it right," it grows to a point where it has to organize, or it will become unmanageable.

This begs the question, "Why does the work of the gospel have to be managed at all?" It occurs to me that our need to organize, to create structure for, to institutionalize good works (or any of the functions of the Church [the true Church, not the organizational church]) stems from a craving to control (and a willingness to be controlled, I suppose).

To be sure, we need to believe true things. We need to be instructed and even corrected. Scripture establishes itself in conjunction with relationships and the gifts of ministry for that purpose, I believe. But of course, it never seems to stop there. Pride is always ready to corrupt the gifted, planting spurious notions and the seeds of ambition. Next thing you know...well, you know. Just look around.

I've spoken before of the plaque that is said to have sat on Ronald Reagan's desk. It said, "Imagine how much could be accomplished if no one were concerned with who got the credit." I think of John, the baptizer. In the minds of his followers, he was the guy who got this whole repent-and-be-baptized thing started. Now it appeared to John's friends that Jesus was going to steal his thunder, possibly even take over "the movement." What if leaders today offered John's response? He told them, You don't get it, guys. Jesus IS the movement. Remember I told you that I was just paving the way for Him? The authority I had has served its purpose. Now I don't need it anymore. HE MUST INCREASE, and I MUST DECREASE. Today, that response would likely be met with, "What? You mean we're closing up shop? This is going to destroy your book sales! And what are we going to do with all these t-shirts? We just ordered 20 cases of 'Repent and be baptized' keychains!!!"

Most of our visible efforts at goodness are ultimately self-serving. Our programs and organizations, while often well-intentioned, don't really solve anything. Even here on the blogs, we like to pick apart everyone else's ideas, question motives, point out each other's inconsistencies, all the while failing to observe that because there is no "perfect" course of action, we have stopped acting altogether.

I think the people who will truly please God are the people who manifest love and grace in relative obscurity. They follow the great commandments (Love God, Love your neighbor.) without trying to read too much into them. These people will never be recognized (until "that day," of course). They quietly minister to the needs they see around them. They don't shout for a cause, nor uselessly obsess over political hypocrisy. They understand that their part is to do their part. I think these will be the greatest in the Kingdom.



eddie said...

it takes real faith to let go and give up control and it's only by letting go that we can truly have changed hearts that no longer cares if we're in control.... kind of makes me wonder what that says about most christians today.

great post!

Kc said...

Dorsey what about teaching the all things and the commission and where do we assemble together? Honestly this is a serious question I’m not trying to pour water on anything you’ve said here, to the contrary I totally agree but it leaves me with those questions.

dorsey said...

They're fair questions, Casey. I fear that church culture is so ingrained in the fabric of our perceptions that a practical shift to a genuine large-scale solution is next to impossible. So, I admit I'm dreaming a little.

Try this on: If the body of believers is a family, then why not act like one? My family doesn't set specific times to gather or designate a meeting place. We get together at all different times and places, under various circumstances. I didn't go to a class to learn to be good friends with my sister-in-law. That happened when we spent time together and understood that we cared for each other. My kids learn how to act and relate from being around us, not because we provide some formal training. It's actually rare that the whole extended family is all together at the same time, but in the course of a couple weeks, I spend time ("fellowship" if you will) with all of them. And we build relationship based upon the things that are important to us.

By the same token, my experience of "church" is most profound when I get together with my friend for lunch, or meet my "mentor" for coffee, or just hang out at the beach with some friends. It's not organized (which leads to routine), but deliberate (which implies real connection). Ask EddieO about his "community." Mostly unbelievers? At first, I had a question mark. But I've begun to see the authenticity of it.

And I can already hear the people who insist on having the whole gang together so that we can all be taught the same things in the same way. The danger, they say, is that splinter groups will form as various small cells wade into error. Well, uniformity hasn't stopped us from dividing into a gajillion different denominations so far, has it? How can we possibly screw it up further?

I know this doesn't address all your questions. I have some of my own. I'm still working through this line of thought. But this I know, the Kingdom is built on relationships, and they happen one at a time.

Kc said...

I think you've covered the assembling well and I could easily get on board with that. I'll keep looking at the other "problems" (for lack of a better word) too.

eddieO said...

hey dorsey, i like your family analogy but i do have one issue with it.... you choose your friends, not your family. your family will for the most part always be there for you and love you throught the thick and the thin because of blood or extended relationship. for example, if your sister in-law has a baby, you will most likely love that child inspite of the fact neither one of you knows anything about each other. the two of you are family and that is enough.

when it comes to friends, things get a little more tricky. after all, before two people become friends, you are at first complete and total strangers. with some time, work, sharing of experiences, care and love, you can cultivate a meaningful relationship. and, let's be honest, things don't go the way we would all like them to and some friendships ultimately break down and fall apart over the stupidest things (like politics or religion). unfortunatly, these relationships can sometimes disolve away and never be rebuilt.

just a thought.

dorsey said...

Eddie, that's a great point and, sadly, it's all too true. But I think that speaks more to our commitment than it does the nature of family. Face it, there are some people in every family who, if you weren't related to them, you'd never waste your time with.

It seems reasonable that, in order for any relationship to work, it has to be accorded a level of commitment almost on par with a marriage. I mean, spouses start out as strangers, have to get to know each other, etc. The difference is commitment. And even then, it sometimes fails.

I've had friendships that, as you described, dissolved away. Friends have come and gone, each serving their purpose (actually MY purpose, as long as we're being honest), fading into oblivion for any number of reasons.

But I've had one or two friends in my life who refused to let it happen, who pursued me, willing to dig in and engage. To my shame, the friendships I was willing to let go have become my most vital...because someone was committed. As a result, I've learned to pursue as well, and the reward is glorious. Have you ever thought about your spouse and some of the tough times you've been through together, and how your relationship has been made more solid as a result? It's a very similar feeling. I would die for those friends, and I believe they would do likewise.

That's the kind of solidarity we need as a Church. In John 17, Jesus prays that we would be one as He and the Father are One, "...so that the world may know You have sent me." Think about it. It says that our commitment to each other will bear witness to the truth of Christ.

How can we get Christians to understand this? I don't know. I can only do what I can do. Love is a choice, and it doesn't depend upon agreement.

jeff said...

You speak of a 'craving to control'. Who's REALLY guilty of this? Maybe you're right. Maybe it IS the churches. And WE don't like... so WE leave, because WE don't want to be controlled. And in our new-found 'freedom', WE come to enjoy the fact that WE ARE NOW IN CONTROL. (And we never want to go back to giving that control to someone else).

dorsey said...

I think you're misreading intention into what I said. This isn't a speck in the eye argument. It's not that I don't want to be controlled because I want to be in control. It's more a matter of seeing the message manipulated in a way that is a) not the complete truth, and b) designed (consciously or otherwise) assign authority to a few and to perpetuate a system that is (while not 100% wrong, not evil) largely extra-biblical.

Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." The clear implication is that if he takes a detour, his leadership is no longer legitimate.

I'm not necessarily looking to be the one in control. But if I'm headed to Tampa, I'm not going to hand the wheel over to a guy who wants to take me to Cleveland.

jeff said...

Control is an illusion.

If YOU are attempting to determine the 'legitimacy' or impose your definition of 'truth', you are saying, "I'm right. He's wrong."

And if things are that black & white, & you refuse to be controlled, you assume control.

So why do I say 'control is an illusion'? Becaus in the midst of all this, God is in control (or at least wanting to be...). But we Christians are so busy fighting and reasoning that we forget to have faith in the fact that all throughout history, God used imperfect people to accomplish His perfect will. (ie- Abraham slept w/ Hagar. Moses struck the rock. David, the man after God's own heart slept w/ Bathsheba after killing her husband, then numbered the people after God specifically told him not to...etc)

Anyone following these guys could have legitimately said that they were manipulating truth or acting extra-biblically...

But as eddie said, it takes real faith to let go and give up control and it's only by letting go that we can truly have changed hearts

Letting go of what? I would say, letting go of our illusion of control & giving it back to God. The problem is that God may want (in His Sovereign wisdom) to have us submit to an imperfect vessel. What then?

(I only say all this because it is EXACTLY what God is doing in me RIGHT NOW!)

What if God said, "Forgive your church leaders. Pray for them. Submit to them, because I'm in control & I know what I'm doing..."? (I'm not saying He's telling you that. Just, 'what if...' )

dorsey said...

In other words, "stop cussin', put your opinions aside and submit to the authority of the pastor..."

At least you practice what you preach (except for the cussin' and opinions) : )

eddieO said...

"What if God said, "Forgive your church leaders. Pray for them. Submit to them, because I'm in control & I know what I'm doing..."? (I'm not saying He's telling you that. Just, 'what if...' )"

man jeff, i have to honestly say that you really do scare me sometimes <:o


Joe said...

We live in a fallen world. The church is made up of fallen people who have been redeemed. They still exercise some of the characteristics of their fallen nature.

If we leave the church, we will still exercise some of the characteristics of our fallen nature, and we will forsake that which Christ would not forsake.

He did not die for the organization, He died for the individuals in the organization.

The "organized church" is nothing more than man's attempt to restore that which is un-restorable; ie: the original order of God's perfect creation.

It won't happen.

In the mean time, we must continue to assemble in order to corporately worship, encourage one another and build each other up in the Body of Christ.

If there were a perfect "organized church," as soon as I joined it it would no longer be perfect.

BruceD said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BruceD said...

It's not that I'm driven from lifelessness, but that I am drawn to life.

I make no excuses for the church. Many people find life there, or at least they think so. I don't see myself as having left the church, but I see myself being drawn to Christ. And though I saw glimpes of Him within organized religion, seeking the reality of His life drew me away from those who were simply going through the motions of religious obligation. I heard Him say, "come and drink the water!"

And I did, and it is good.

jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ron said...


You gave a lot of thought provoking insight. You stated "Even here on the blogs, we like to pick apart everyone else's ideas, question motives, point out each other's inconsistencies, all the while failing to observe that because there is no "perfect" course of action, we have stopped acting altogether." To that I say, Amen. Consider what Paul said, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."

I truly appreciate your words.

Ron said...

Dorsey, Kc and others:

When I read Dorsey's response to Kc's question, one of the Scriptures that came to mind was Galatians 6:10 - As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Paul puts an emphasis on how we are to treat one another. He implies that there is a priority in doing good to those that are of the household of faith. I am not quite sure how we do that if we attack or criticize one another, even though we may be extending a hand of fellowship to the unchurched.

To put it another way, if I desire for someone to become a part of my family, what am I showing them if I have no family with which to relate? God did not create us to be islands unto ourselves; He desires to use us so that His family may grow.

ninjanun said...

Dorsey, thanks so much for your thoughts. This is eXACTLY what my church is doing right now (trying to organize every spontaneous gathering into a formal "church" setting), and I find myself going through the motions because I now feel a sense of obligation rather than love, fellowship and worship given and experienced freely and jointly. Every time believers are gathered together for whatever reason, the pastor and other leadership are insisting that we study church-approved literature, invite non-Christians (with the idea of "influencing them" to Christ)to every small and large gathering, and basically organize and formalize something that we were already attempting to do in a more organic and spontaneous way. It really seems to suck the life out of things, and all because the purpose now seems to be "numbers" and "growing" rather than love and joy. So I totally understand what you're saying. While I agree that some aspects of worship, gathering, and teaching need to have some structure, I see too many "programs" in the modern U.S. churches and not enough actual love. It's like we're all being asked to rely on the system itself to usher in the Kingdom, rather than remembering that the system serves God's purposes, and not the other way around.

eddieO said...

wow ninjanun, you just described the last 4 or 5 churches i went to with amazingly acurate detail!!

kind of makes you wonder sometimes what the whole point and purpose of church is really all about...

but maybe that's just me :)

jeff said...


Why, exactly, do I scare you sometimes?

eddie said...

hey jeff,
don't get me wrong. i really do like you a lot and really respect the fact that you're willing to go toe to toe with me and then at the end of the day still be friendly. in all honesty, most christians i've met just tell me that god hates me and that i'm going to hell and then are done with it.

what scares me sometimes are the things you say and the things you believe. i'm not going to say that you are wrong because i honestly don't know if you are and i really don't care. i just know that i could never be a part of what you believe in... it is after all what i already left behind.


Boltono said...

A few things.
1. The Kingdom is within. People write, still, as if it isn't.
2. I don't get many people commenting at my blog because I don't seem to be asking many questions but giving certainties.
3. The H Sp is well able to lead each of us into the truth of ALL things and without us "joining" or building any organization! We can be friends too along the Way!...with our respective giftings, as God leads. Much of this will be spontaneous and temporary, but gets the job done that pleases the Father to do.
4. Joe, are your heavenly places in you organized? ...if so, how, and by whom?
5. ninjanun, you said it...you see it...there's life abundant beyond that sort of crappo!

jeff said...


for the record, I visited your blog. You don't get a lot of comments because your blogs are too freakin' long...


dorsey said...

Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle :-)

Boltono said...

Thank you Jeff.
I'll try and be more brief, then.
I see that maybe the Psalms might get you the same way!! One a day, right?!
I'll try and pace it between content and visitor ADD.
Love, bro...no offense, and some posts are indeed a bit long!

jeff said...

I poste this on my brother's blog because I always had a problem with long blogs...

After enough chastisement, I was converted to the theology of brevity...

in other words... been there, done that!