Saturday, March 03, 2007

Too much of a good thing?

Computer viruses are bad. Right? Very bad!

So anti-virus programs are good. Right? Very good!

If one anti-virus program is good, two are better. Right?

Not necessarily!

In fact, by 2 a.m. this morning, I was totally convinced that when it comes to computer anti-virus programs, you really can have too much of a good thing.

For several days my computer has been getting painfully slower and slower like an arthritic senior in damp weather. Finally, about 11 p.m. last night, it decided to slow to a virtual stop. The problem is, my sermon for tomorrow, and a great deal of my "life," were now unretrievable on this recalcitrant beast called a lap top. Okay, so if my life can be locked up in rebellious technology, maybe my life has become a little pathetic. Sorry.

With computers, shutting down and restarting cures a lot of junk. But, after initiating and watching a number of horrendously slow and fruitless restarts (kind of like watching paint dry), I finally chased down a technical support number for Dell. If you haven't yet discovered, technical support is now an intercultural experience. After a couple of very frustrating contacts, a sweet lady in the Philippines was very helpful but ultimately connected me to a $79-just-to-get-started-for-pay-technical-support-person not covered by our service contract. Actually, I never did get connected or pass my credit card numbers to an unknown person in order to rescue my stalled life.

While on hold, I slowly navigated through the add-and-remove process and wiped out one of those good anti-virus programs. INSTANTLY, MY COMPUTER WAS WELL! Hmmmm. I guess you can have too much of a good thing, aka, two good anti-virus programs.

Going to church (that may be an interesting alternative to "being the church") is a good thing. Right? So going to church a lot (a concept which seems quite building- and program-oriented) is a really good thing. Right? I grew up in the era when good Christians went to church "every time the doors were open." I apologize to all those to whom I encouraged that abominable idea.

Maybe going to church a lot is not a good thing. Maybe the church in the USA (one of the few places in the world where the church is in decline) has substituted "going to church" for "being the church." We feel like good Christians when we go to church, whether or not we really are more and more like Christ.

Perhaps our seemingly infinite expansion of meetings, events, and programs (all likely good in themselves--like my two anti-virus programs) has been substituted for authentic Christianity and the enactment of Jesus' mission in the world (redeeming sinners and relieving suffering--bringing the newness of the kingdom of God to broken people and a broken culture/world).

At 60, I'm slowing down (not quite as badly as my computer last night) and I sense that I'm running out of time. I want to invest what time I have left in moving toward a different model of being Jesus' church--His new community bringing new life to a broken world. That's why the pastors are talking quite a bit about "sharpening our focus" and "doing less better." It's not just about doing less things though. It's about trying to do the right things -- nurturing relational communities that are formative, caring, and missional. But we don't want to just add that to an already too full menu.

I guess you can tell that I'm thinking that our model of church and Christianity may have inadvertently (with all good intent) become too much of a good thing.

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