Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bonhoeffer on "Mychurch"

Church fellowship can get killed by people who think church exists to serve "me," that "this is my church, and it will be done the way I want it done." Others have honest ideas of certain ways they think church ought to be, for example, a certain worship style, the manner and frequency of the Lord's Supper, whether the congregation should vote on a certain issue, what color scheme the sanctuary should have, or how to handle announcements in the worship service.

When people drive their own visions of church over the top of what Christ has established for our fellowship, difficulties can arise as Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes:

One who wants more [in church life] than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood.
Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at his root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood. . . .
Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream [i.e., "the way I want things done in my church"].
The serious Christian, set down for the fist time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams.
Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. . . . The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.
A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse.
Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive.
He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. (Life Together, chap. 1)
What do you think about how best we my preserve Christ-centered fellowship in our churches?