Helping Institutional Church Implode, So We Can Start From Scratch

implosion_by_plantm-d3cjq2pAn implosion is simply the opposite of an explosion. In an explosion, matter and energy fly outward, but in an implosion, matter and energy collapse inward. All implosions will need some sort of pressure from the outside pushing in to cause the object to collapse.

Articles like this one: “Another Mega Church Implodes” Are not rare. Former fomenters of energy from within the church now stand outside of her and exert pressure in such a way that hopefully causes collapse. 

It seems like there are more and more folks who are waiting around to see the church as we know it implode. Not destroyed, mind you… just brought to its knees, so to speak, and to a condition in which it has to start from scratch.

 What is ‘the scratch’ from which a church starts?

My gut reaction is to cheer this sentiment on. In fact, I’d be inclined like help the process along a bit. But then I think, “Is this desire spiritually healthy?” or “Is this what you think God wants?” (Talking to myself)

And then, Paul the apostle’s words come to mind;

“And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.” (Romans 16:17)

How easily could one who desires to see the church implode and actually takes measures to speed that process along be tagged as ‘divisive’ or ‘heretical?’  The thing is, there’s a caveat in the verse above, “Teaching things contrary to what you have been taught.”  

What if most institutional practices are contrary to what Jesus taught?

If the church, like the universe, is supposed to expand (mission) and contract (gather), then it seems natural for the church to have a pulse. Excessive gathering without mission is a sign of heart disease. I have claimed, and I still believe, that the institutional church in its current forms, is the biggest impediment to God’s mission.  All you have to do is look a church budget. Does the bulk of a local church’s resources, people, time, and energy go into sustaining itself as a dispenser of religious goods and services, or the Missio Dei (Mission of God)?

What if church as you know it,

is the biggest impediment to church as Christ would have it known?

If it is true that our ecclesiastical machinations are actually standing in the way of being a fruitful and growing church, then shouldn’t we want to “demolish it and every other pretension that sets itself up against the already revealed will of God and we take prisoner the thoughts disobedient to Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting any form of active violence towards people, but humble pressure exerted with wisdom from outside of systems towards the center which is Christ. Implosion then, is not destruction, but discipleship.  

I know, there’s much more in scripture that talks about ‘building others up’ etc., but how much building is being done over already faulty foundations?  Twenty minutes from where I live now there are an estimated 70 buildings whose foundations we irreparably damaged by recent earthquakes. As much as the owners of those buildings may want to fix the walls and replace the windows, they will never be safe again. The only wise thing to do is demolish the buildings, tear up the foundations and start from scratch. 

Do we work within an all but defunct system to change it’s paradigms? 

Do we leave the system to it’s own devices and see what happens?

or 

Do we actively participate by taking actions to speed its impending implosion along?

Is there another option? 


2 thoughts on “Helping Institutional Church Implode, So We Can Start From Scratch

  1. Linda says:

    I think an important distinction is to define “church.” What is it that we want to implode? What is it that we want to save? And just as crucial, what is it that we have been taught that we are to hang on to?

  2. Jonathan says:

    Concerning explosions/implosions, there are several laws we engineers and scientists refer to to explain them (from Newton’s 3 laws of motions to the 3+ laws of thermodynamics, to the progression from Boyle’s to Charles’ to Gay-Lussac’s laws). I’ll summarize what this body of work bears on the subject this way:

    For a body to remain at peace, the internal and external forces must be equal and opposite. For the body to grow slowly, the internal force must be slightly greater than the external force and the barrier separating the forces must be able to flex, grow, and heal.

    An explosion occurs in two conditions: 1) when there is an increase of the internal force relative to the external force and the barrier is rigid. 2) when there is a dramatic increase in the internal force relative to the external force such that the barrier is unable to flex, grow, heal at a sufficient rate to normalize the forces. An implosion occurs in the same way except that the relative change in forces favors the external force. An earthquake illustrates this very well (the internal supports are weakened and soon the weight that the supports are designed to hold overwhelm and the structure collapses.

    So…how does a church implode? There are many variations but all are based on the concept of a major force (or pressure) difference between the outside and inside.

    Basically, a church will implode when key internal stabilizing forces cease to exist. In other words, remove key supports and the church will implode under its own weight (or to be more accurate, under it’s own weight plus the external forces against it).

    Clearly we’re not talking about bricks and mortar here. A local church is composed of actual people and it is the active presence and functioning of these people, under the power of the Holy Spirit, who create an environment where the church is stable or growing. Remove enough of them without replacing them and the probability of implosion increases.

    To your questions:

    1. Do we work within an all but defunct system to change it’s paradigms?

    Sure, but to the extent that the church is still functioning and producing as designed. Once it is not, I have learned that it is foolish for a layperson to continue struggling to maintain one internal support while others are being weakened to the point where the entire structure is headed toward instability.

    2. Do we leave the system to it’s own devices and see what happens?

    If the system is headed toward collapse, then act like Lot and most of his family and flee.

    3. Do we actively participate by taking actions to speed its impending implosion along?

    Only such that by our recognizing the growing lack of structural integrity (and a lack of leadership championing a reverse course), we remove ourselves (as key structural components). By removing ourselves we might hasten this implosion. But, given how all of us are prideful beings, we might find that we are the problem and that our absence results in a stronger structure.

    4. Is there another option?

    Always other options. But we must take care to not put ourselves in the driver seat exclusively reserved for God. We must remember that in his sovereignty, no structure rises or falls outside of his permission. Our staying and leaving are orchestrated by his command (even when we think it was our own initiative).

    The constant evaluative focus that we place on the “institutional church” must also be placed on ourselves. We don’t get to take an ends justify the means approach in order to act as an agent of change. The means are ordained by God, even when the means are distasteful to us.

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