April 18, 2009

The Slow Church & Spirit Time

RealLivePreacher has written a wonderful post about Slow Church. He opens with the Carthusian monks at the Grande Chartreuse monastery in France who allowed themselves to be filmed for the documentary: Into Great Silence. Of course, it only took them 16 years to get an answer back to the director.

I can remember in seminary that I was frustrated, frustrated beyond belief. The world was changing and the church was dragging its feet to catch up. Everyone knows that the culture, technology, ideology of the church is at least ten years behind if not a few centuries. Change couldn't come soon enough. Shortfalls are the easiest to spot in almost every scenario and belief, thus I wanted to change all things that I didn't like about the church. Certainly some of things were more noble than others. Certainly the church does need to change. But at the same time, I can't help but wonder if there is something right about slow change.

It could be that my frustration grew out of my own postmodern expediencies for instant change and the unsatiable desire for the new. Of course who wouldn't living in a culture full of instant meals, coffee, community (internet), and artificial desires created by marketing geniuses to trick us into simpy wanting the new car, house, phone, book series, shoes, etc)

I wonder if the many friends I have who are in that same place of frustration with the church are there because of the culture we live in. Certainly I believe they, as I did and still do, had good if not the best intentions for the church, the gospel, and engaging the world, but often our best intentions go awry due to the impervious nature of being honest and truthful with ourselves.

We live in a culture of instant change and insatiable desire for the new. It could be best that the church operates on a different timeline. Communities of faith, theology lived and believed, and transformation are all best served over time.

Here are some quotes from RLP that were beautiful in proving the rightness of the Slow Church:
People tell me that the average stay for a pastor in an American church is 18 months. That astounds me. We might have a stack of rocks on our back porch for 18 months while we talk about what we should do with them. Most of our best stories span 5 or 6 years at least. It takes about a decade just to figure out what’s going on at our church.
If you are thinking we don’t get anything done, nothing could be further from the truth. We do things. We just do them slowly. With time as no burden or constraint, we find we can do a lot with our bare hands. Children built our rock-lined path through the woods. Children working with their hands the last Sunday morning of each month. It took 2 years, but why should that matter? I watched a lot of the construction process. The man who guided them was in no hurry and didn’t mind if they lengthened the path only a few feet a month. The children were laughing. They had fun. And they built something our community loves.
Things are settled into the ground and beautiful. These things exist because we’ve chosen to live our lives slowly and deliberately in this community. We’re living on Spirit time, not clock time.
Don't hear me as swinging the pendulum as if the church doesn't need to change some things, certainly it must to survive and to communicate in the 21st Century. What needs to change along with the church though is our expectations for change. The new life so many of my frustrated friends, including myself, occurs within the slowing moving structures of the established and institutionalized, but it seems to me that too often we pull out of the farming business thinking it a failure long before seasons of harvest arise.

Patience is a virtue my momma always told me. Indeed, patience is essential for meaningful life in the church.

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