Someone has concluded that the Bible authors were inspired to portray Christ's church in more that 100 textual metaphors. The list includes but is not limited to family, building, assembly, people of God, Kingdom of God, citizens of heaven, flock, branches of a vine, army, marriage or bride, and the body of Christ, all with strong biblical precedents. Through the generations scholars, expositors and creative spiritual leaders have coined more current images to connect Christ's church to the mission field down or across the street. These have included theater, lecture room, spiritual Starbucks, caravan, hospital or commissary, herald, aircraft carrier, and even business or entertainment motifs. And, it's not just slick language, these word games. How many churches do you know who have stage managers, production directors, lighting technicians, or have discussions about branding, marketing tag lines, or executive leadership. Yes, metaphors connect. But, they also shape. We often become what we project.
Which brings me to the infatuation of the moment, the church as a team. Monday I mentioned the trendy cultural morphing of Christ's church these days. The idea invaded my limited brain space when I attended a pastor's conference recently and one of the speakers taught attendees how to be a coach. What in the world? Youbetcha, spiritual leaders must know some coaching techniques, along with the rudiments of command, decision making, problem solving, marketing, and down the line, ad infinitum. My point is simple: the modern obsession with the coaching thing for spiritual leaders derives from our favorite metaphor of Christ's church, that is, the team. I Googled church as a team and hit 141,000,000 possibilities in .87 seconds. Oh me.
So, hang out with a group of spiritual leaders over lunch and learn the metrics of teamwork, how to get people connected under a winning strategy, methods to help believers discover their position on the team, and dozens of other franchise oriented designs in getting self-absorbed humans to work together. We may have become a little manic in pushing the team impulses so visible in church. One day at lunch a group of coaches were talking about trading some team members, all in jest I'm sure.
The extra-biblical metaphors for Christ's church, the team being just one, bother me for a couple of very obvious reasons---
1. The biblical metaphors for Christ's church are supernaturally mysterious.
Whether body, building, bride, vine, or Kingdom Scripture portrays a
miraculous, intimate connection between Christ and his people. In his many
"body of Christ" references the Apostle Paul emphasized Christ as the head,
connected to the members of the body by the sinews and ligaments of the
preternatural human body scientists have been trying to comprehend since
creation. To portray Christ's church in these lower, modern forms is to strike
through the spiritual dimensions that identify them as his.
2. Metaphors do more than connect. They communicate.
Back in the eighties several hip pastors pictured their churches as the bar in the
TV program Cheers, where everybody knows your name. Members wore name
tags in the new familiarity that a world on the make needed. But, the metaphor
did more than connect with disenfranchised humans who desired some human
interaction. It was strong on edgy humor, sexuality, alcohol consumption,
dirty jokes, and isolation from the world. Nothing happened beyond the wall of
Cheers. And, to many people it became the image of church lite, the place
where standards were stretched, group process was surrendered to
individuality, and decency trended downward. On the other hand, the biblical
metaphors communicate the deeper, inner workings of intimacy: body parts
connected and interdependent; stones intimately held together by the
cornerstone, fitted so the entire edifice would stand strong; the organic
miracle of a vine and branches; the holy union of marriage and family.
Many of the greatest lessons of life are learned on a ball field or a court of some kind. There's surely sports and team understandings in running the race Paul mentioned, or finishing the course. But, team isn't a biblical metaphor. And, church isn't a team sport. The Apostle wrote this---
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 12:27, ESV
Just as we resist the pressures of a political correctness, so must we avoid the influences of being culturally correct.
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