Orbiting the Church (a.k.a. "a giant hairball")
Last Monday, I found myself reading a book called Making a Meal of It by Ben Witherington III that examines the history of communion.
Ben writes this about a section out of one of Paul’s letters, “‘Be imitators of me as I am of Christ’ (I Cor 11:1). This may indeed allude to Jesus’ practice of eating with anyone, even notorious sinners, and perhaps to his ruling (see Mark 7) about no food being unclean. It may also refer to Christ’s servanthood example, giving up all his rights and privileges for the sake of saving others.” (47)
This seemed to be a tangential thought for Witherington but it was significant for me as I reflected on the meals that I share with people. In the last year, I have been challenged in my role to spend more time with people outside the church, who are not followers of Jesus. I have this growing desire to pray for them, spend time with them and engage them in common activities. I want to share a meal (including bread and beverage of choice) and hear their story. But the energy and activities of the church seem at times to be all consuming. The world of the church and the Christian sub-culture suck all of life out of me.
Last year, I read a fascinating book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie. In this book, MacKenzie tells stories that illustrate how even the most innovative organization quickly becomes a “giant hairball” – a tangled, impenetrable mass of rules, traditions, and systems, all based on what worked in the past – that exercises an inexorable pull into mediocrity. Many times during a week, I am faced with the reality that the church is a massive hairball with hair after hair being stuck to one another and my one goal is to somehow creatively and imaginatively fight to stay orbiting the organization.