When we got together on Monday night to keep imagining what’s next for us as a Circle of Hope, we talked about acknowledging the fact that our congregations are four local expressions of one church and mused that more sharing and mutuality among us could increase our capacity to be the local expressions of the kingdom of God that we are called to be. Many parts of a beautiful whole was always the vision—just like Paul’s description of the “body” of Christ in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you”… God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
At the meeting we faced some legitimate fears about being “big.” It seemed to me that some concerns may be imposed on us from the outside and may threaten to cloud our view of ourselves. We’re affected by big forces that use people as commodities and vie for our loyalties. Governments haven’t exactly been trustworthy and forthcoming about the effects of policies and where our tax dollars actually go. Corporations invade our “privacy” moment-to-moment with advertising. These two big entities seem to work together to control just about everything they can, for profit, and people are often casualties. Even some churches have followed suit and gone “mega” where it can be hard to be known for who you are and what you’re struggling with. The giant meta world of the internet can further reduce human interactions to transactions. No wonder we’re suspicious of big! We want to be known for who we are beyond what we can produce or buy! We know we have stuff to give and we want to give it, and we want it to matter. We don’t want it to be a nameless drop in the bucket.
I’m grateful for our reaction to “big” in that it helps us keep forming a Circle of Hope that is about real people loving real people with the love of God. We resist the treatment of ourselves and others as commodities and work to restore community. Our cells protect and develop the heart of us, where we can be intimately known and discipled in the way of Jesus.
The way of Jesus, consequently, draws me into a vision for the world that is way beyond what I can control, consume, or manage. (Thank God. The American ideology that entitles us to seek what we can consume, control, and manage seems to promulgate the big monsters we fear.) Jesus invites us to live in a broader spiritual zone that brings practical and personal change in the world—restoration. He said he came to save the whole world, not condemn it. There is nothing small about the love of God. God calls us to actually love people on the other side of town, and the other side of the river, and the other side of Zambia—even as we invest as we can in our own homes and neighborhoods—and I think we’re enabled to do that through each other. Our partnership bucks the natural fearful reaction to our corporate culture and extends the love of God beyond the limits of our individual lives.
I have a young friend who is small for his age and calls himself “fun size.” I like fun-size. Putting our fun-size-ness together reflects the re-generative and creative and fearless nature of our Lord. So I’m glad we’re talking about our unity. We are a movement of life in the Spirit. No doubt we have more capacity in our togetherness to partner with God in transforming our corners of the world than we even realize. The corporations do not define us unless we define ourselves by our reactions to the corporations.