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Wild Church

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; ~Psalm 84:5-7

Standing in the cold and wind for hours staring at bird feeder just hoping that a rarity may reappear may sound exceptionally boring to you. That’s fair. Hardcore birders find the motivation to that at the drop of hat. So what could birders possibly find boring? A bird club meeting. OK, not all of them, but any time not spent in active pursuit of birds can seem a bit dull. That’s why the club meetings that interest me are the ones that prepare for the mission of birding, i.e. seeing birds. Sure, it can be interesting to see pictures of the Black-breasted Boatbill that a club member saw last year, but unless I’m going to Papua New Guinea any time soon, that doesn’t get me any closer to finding and identifying all the local species. Mission drift is a risk every organization faces, particularly if given enough time. You can tell that institutionalization has taken over and stolen the vitality when the chorus becomes “but we’ve never done it that way before.”

There’s likely no better example of institutionalization taking the teeth out of an organization than the church. Over the centuries the mandate to go forth and make disciples transformed into gathering members. Rather than chase the Wild Goose, we’ve built a nice barn for the domesticated version. The church is now tame where it once was wild. We know how to organize a nice potluck, but we struggle to organize efforts to make a meaningful impact on the community beyond our walls. If this were a bird club it would be filled with people who can recite the scientific names of birds but would be lucky to know which end of the binoculars to look through. It is time to re-wild the church in the image of birders chasing a reported rarity.

When birders descend on a location to search for a rare bird, it doesn’t matter if you are a card-carrying member, you are welcome to join the search. It doesn’t matter if you have the best skill set, there is more than enough collective wisdom in the group, which only increases as others join. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the best optics, birders are quick to share. The reason all of this happens, seemingly without effort, is that the unstated mission is clear and driving the actions. That mission is simply “get everyone on the bird.”

Wouldn’t it be wild if the only constant in church life was that believers showed up every time there was a need and worked together to meet it? I doubt that there would be card-carrying members of such a church, but however you join, sign me up.

Prayer: Wild Goose, surprise us. Amen.


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