Positive Deconstruction

My friend Will is just putting the finishing touches to a book he was asked to write. He is a campus minister, and his book is about the concept of missional community. He felt the need to include a chapter about church, and about how church is supposed to be a missional community. Problem: Will hasn’t really experienced missional community at his church. It’s one of his major frustrations. So, knowing that I’d been spending the last year pouring over how to create a missional church, he asked me to write that chapter for him.

I finished the chapter last week while I was in Orlando. It was great fun. I told lots of stories about you guys – the Coram Deo community – because they illustrated what I was writing about. I also took pains to distance myself from people who are bitter and negative about church. Here’s an excerpt:

A lot of the people I know are pretty bothered by the way we do church, and by the lameness of the Christian subculture. The thing is, not many people are doing anything about it. There is a whole movement of Christians who are bitter about church, and so they sit around and write books about how church sucks, and how modernism sucks, and how everything before last year sucks. They glibly deconstruct the church, leaving nothing constructive in their wake.

It’s appropriate at this point in our journey that we pause and caution ourselves against this tendency. I LOVE deconstruction. I think it’s a valuable tool for teaching. I enjoy cutting out from under people the very foundation they stand on, leaving them groundless and conflicted. Frustrated people learn stuff. So if I can raise enough tension in your mind, you’ll crave an answer! That’s what good teachers do.

And in the process of planting a church, it’s necessary to deconstruct. It’s necessary to talk about where the Church in America is failing. It’s necessary to talk about the false ideas we’ve absorbed; ideas that have more to do with American individualism than with the Bible. But this sort of deconstruction will naturally create tension in us. So how do we keep from becoming a bunch of people who sit around and talk badly about Christ’s bride? How do we keep from being negative and cynical and bitter?

The answer is: we don’t stop there. Deconstruction is good… as long as it’s followed by construction. The problem with the bitter people I mentioned above is that they are content to deconstruct and that’s all. No construction. No proposing an alternative. No recognizing the good, even in failed models of church. Let’s not be “that guy.”

Let’s be people who value the good in everything, who keep a godly and generous spirit, who honor those who have gone before. Let’s recognize the Holy Spirit’s work in shepherding his imperfect church down through the ages. Let’s boldly propose an alternative model of church that answers the questions we’re raising. And let’s keep ourselves humble by reminding ourselves that in 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 years, someone will be using Coram Deo as a model of what not to do. Freeing, isn’t it?

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