What Are We Protecting?
I found the following thoughts by Seth Godin provocative:
At the congregation down the street, they’re doing things the way they’ve done them for the last few hundred years. Every week, people come, attracted by familiarity, by the family and friends around them, part of a tribe.
And just past that building is another one, a different tribe, where the tradition is more than a thousand years old.
This is not so different from that big company that used to be an internet startup, but all the original team members have long left the building. Work tomorrow has a lot in common with work yesterday, and the safety of it all is comforting.
Che, Jefferson, Edison, Ford… most of these radicals would not recognize the institutions that have been built over time.
The question each of us has to answer about the institution we care about is: Does this place exist to maintain and perpetuate the status quo, or am I here to do the work that the radical founder had in mind when we started?
I hear a lot of talk about concern for the Lutheran Church. Will it have a future? Can it survive? What do we do with all the declining churches? Can we afford eight seminaries? And so forth.
I understand where these questions are coming from. We love these institutions. They have served us well. We fear for their future.
But are these questions of institutional survival the right questions? Should we instead be asking whether we are still doing what Luther tried to do? Whether we are offering the same message, seeking the same good? Luther, after all, started a reformation, not a church.
More broadly, I hear a lot of concern about the Christian Church, and particularly its decline in North America. But maybe we should instead be asking whether we are following Jesus? Whether Jesus would recognize us as his disciples?
What, after all, are we trying to protect? Our institutional existence? Or the message of grace, love, and liberty that Jesus – and, for that matter, Luther – first announced?