Am I really a “Done?”
In my personal musings I suddenly realized that there was a strong possibility that if I did not do contractual pastoral work in congregations, I’d possibly become a “Done” – someone who still has most of his Christian faith intact, but rejects the institutional organized church as the best place in which to live it out. This recognition shocked me a bit, and I suddenly felt like a kind of hypocrite, challenging myself with the question: “if you don’t believe in the organized church, is it authentic to work within it still?” I have not answered that yet, but by not resigning I guess in some way I have. This post is a beginning to trying to sort out my struggle.
This whole line of reflection was partly prompted by a conversation a few weeks prior with someone who is part of a social media network of so-called “Dones” and who recently participated in a conference of Dones in Canada. Sure, it was only a small group of just over a dozen people from all over North America that came out of a potential 50 former church leaders that are part of the social media group, but it is still significant this event happened. I chuckled, by the way, to find out that some non-attenders objected to there an “organized” event, as that would be too much like church. I did not learn much more about what transpired there, except to hear that they were encouraged to take a position like David did, waiting for Saul’s Kingship to fail, yet not speeding that failure along.
Somehow that conversation started a churn in my conscience, and out of the stirring of that I came to the recognition that if I was not employed by the organized church, I’d for sure be a “freelancer” and possibly even a Done. Anyone who has known me and read things I’ve written in the past will know that I have never really been a fan of the church as organized structured institution. In seminary back in the 90’s, in one of my reports on my practical ministry experience, I wrote I had discovered “Strict structure and order in worship is like a cast-iron condom that prevents spiritual fruit from happening.” That should give you some idea of my thinking at that time. (It also may explain why some professors did not like the idea of me going out into the church).
If I spend any extended time preaching in a church, they will hear my priority scheme explained in sermons:
The Body of Christ = organic organism
Institutional church = supportive inside skeleton
The skeleton should invisibly and unobtrusively support the organism (endoskeleton)
When the skeleton becomes “exo” or all you see, something is wrong.
Colleague, cyber-friend, and fellow blogger Paul VanderKlay has written something similar. It is a bit denominationally in-house but makes a similar point. I also wrote a more recent blog post in response: https://pastorpete.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/a-starting-response-to-paul-vk-on-structure-and-culture-change/
Here is one of the fruits of my reflection on realizing I was close to being a Done myself: Many of the struggles of near-Dones are with the fact that the structure that is intended to serve the body becomes the “all” of the body, making it inflexible, arthritic, rigid, unable to be nimble in a time of accelerating change. Rather than become an official Done, I’ve chosen to be someone inside the institution warning of the danger of the supporting structure taking over and meanwhile doing my best to nourishing the body itself.
I even say that all of us church leaders should be Dones when it comes to the structure, but engaged when it comes to the tasks of the Body of Christ.
There may be more recognitions to come, but I’ll stop here for now, except to share the piece I read this morning that prompted me to write this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2015/08/03/the-problem-with-the-institutional-church/