A friend has given me a very interesting little book to read to read called “Accompanying young people on their spiritual quest”.
It’s a cracking book and very well written (that’s very high praise from me!) and, oddly, my first interesting thought about it is not about the book’s key subject.
While discussing how the church perceives young people it introduces the topic of Movements and Organisation.
In this case the “movement” is the Christian religion. The notion being that the “church” (by which I mean the global body of people who profess faith in Jesus Christ) is not static. To quote the book “its thinking and practices remain open to question and open to change”.
Yet any large “movement” requires some form of “organization”. Which poses a problem, because organizations have boundaries and procedures which limit movement.
It’s a continual challenge, I find, at work, in my local church, in my friendships and relationships, even at home, to be disciplined and organised, and yet, remain open to change. On the one hand I’m a very organised individual who likes order and structure and gets annoyed when things are out of place. On the other hand, I retain the right to change my views, move on, do things differently. There is a creative part of me that likes to operate outside of formal structures.
It’s important not to become legalistic about anything, especially in the Christian faith where the central concept is love: a thing that has no real boundary or definition and which, practically, can be expressed in many, many ways. AND it is a thing which means different things to different people. It can’t be given an organisation because it’s too woolly to pin down to a process.
Organising can be difficult for the similar reasons. What organisation works for one person may not work for another. Some churches have very set forms, called liturgy. Written out words that are spoken or sung during a service. Some church services are entirely based around such liturgies. Others have no written form whatsoever. Who’s to say what’s right. Horses for courses isn’t it?
Which all leads to much confusion. How do we love? How do we organise? How do we not become legalistic?
We see in the bible how Jesus, our role model for all that we do, interacts with children. “Become like them” he says, as he gives the legalistic priests a good telling off about their stubborn ways. Yet when faced with a large group with some work to do Jesus organises them, splits them up, gives them instructions, and sends them out.
One of the “Accompanying” book’s ideas is that children represent the movement side of church, wanting to grow, but not necessarily according to the rules of the church organisation. I wonder what we can learn from them about moving on, and about growing in our faith and in who we are as people. I wonder if we need to rebel occasionally against strict organisation. I wonder if we need more chaos in our lives or the other way around?
I’ve love to draw a conclusion, state something profound that I’ve learned from thinking about this and say what I’m going to do about it, but I think this is probably a journey. One of those things that we’ll never get right, and a balance that we’ll always be tweaking with.
One thing I’ve learned since becoming a Christian is that answers aren’t always necessary. Sometimes it’s just as important to just ask the questions.