Declaration of interdependence

I realised today that the are some foundational principles that I am working on, that shape my thinking about church, but that many people may not be aware of these, or even agree with them. I love that phrase at the beginning of the US Declaration of independence ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ and I thought it would be interesting to express our declaration. This is just for starters, leave me comments and I will add more as we think of them.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that we do not judge on the basis of education, wealth, appearance, gender or race.

That the church exists primarily not for the sake of its members, but rather for its non-members.

That we are part of church not for what we receive, but for what we can give.

That every member of the church is important as part of the body of Christ, and shapes who we are by their character and abilities.

12 thoughts on “Declaration of interdependence

  1. ‘Start with the Church and the mission will probably get lost. Start with the mission and it is likely that the church will be found’

  2. Just ruminating again, what do we think about the fact that the whole discussion over whether church exists more for Christians or non-Christians is very people based?

    I appreciate that your original said ‘exists primarily for the benefit of’, Mark, but I’d like an addition that it exists primarily for the glory of God.

    Interesting discussion. Hope I wasn’t too abrupt in last post – didn’t mean to, just needed to get back to work.

  3. Is the whole idea of self-evident truth not a bit flawed? Isn’t the whole point of our faith that it is not our wisdom or logic, but God’s perspective.

    What about 1Cor12:3
    Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

  4. ok- drawn in again. A quick comment on ‘self evident truth’ (SET) “That the church exists primarily not for the sake of its members, but rather for its non-members.”

    Perhaps this shoud be tempered by something about our identity and calling to be the body and family of Jesus.

    This SET is not an ‘ultimate’ truth. One day- in the new heavens and earth- we will not exist for our non-members but we will exist as the body, bride and family of Jesus.

    This adds much impetus to existing for our non-members now, but also tells us to cherish and love being the family of Jesus.

  5. First; Naomi, I completely agree with your comments.

    Secondly, on the declaration debate:

    There is merit in listing who we don’t judge, but I still think that once you start listing things, the list gets very long very quickly and there will always be gaps. So I agree with you Sophia of something along the lines of caring for everyone regardless. Jesus said it all in one word – “neighbour”.

    I am finding this exercise of thinking of a declaration really useful – to think why we do actually exist as a church. I haven’t really thought before about why the church exists – it just does!

    But when we start thinking about why we exist, we run into difficult questions. Like the one about existing primarily for the sake of its non-members. Do we do this in practice? What would a church that exists for its non-members look like? A few thoughts to stir up some debate:

    • First, it would be rare among organisations as its ultimate aim would be to dissolve itself, as if it were successful there would be no non-members left to exist for. This would change our way of working and looking at ourselves.
    • There may be a greater emphasis on doing Christianity rather than teaching it. Not everyone wants to sit and be lectured at for 30 minutes every week, and it doesn’t reach non-members.
    • There wouldn’t be so much emphasis on our style of corporate worship that effectively gives the message that “you must behave like we do and have the same music taste in order to join our club”.
    • The main focus of church would not be on Sunday services at all as it is at present, which are mainly for church members rather than non-members.

    I don’t think that a church existing for non-members would look like COTC does at present. So changing church to really live up to ‘self-evident truths’ might require a total rethinking of who we are and what we do!

  6. I’m loving a bit of this blog discussion action! Here’s a thought on the: “That we are part of church not for what we receive, but for what we can give.”

    I realise that my needs tend to drive me to church. In terms of the God involvement of this statement- I think the converse is true: he wants us to come to church hungry, thirsty and needy of him. If we give to God, we give him happinnes, we give him glory… and we do that by humbling ourselves and telling him we need him and love him. So in terms of meeting with God we come to receive.

    In terms of each other in church I think it’s a mix- and we could def do with a challenge to look to lift each other and serve each other.

    In terms of the outsider coming in to church- there is no question, they are there for us to give to. I think Naomi’s points are very good simple first steps in doing this. This is where the above slogan kicks in.

    1Peter4:11 says “Serve in the strength God provides” which points to receiving from God, and learning to give to each other.

  7. The bit about education, wealth, appearance, gender or race got me thinking about why we’re writing this. Looking outside of the Church, a lot of people hold it as a self-evident truth that the church wants to you to leave your brain at the door (but is comfortably conservative middle-England), is out to get your money, squash your love of beauty, (think black vicar dresses and mid-calf length skirts), discriminate against and oppress women, and when it comes to race, just look at the fact that “the black church” exists as such. So maybe it’s good to articulate our views these things that are issues in our culture for ourselves and that may affect how others see us. I’d say not judging on the basis of sexuality is another important cultural one.

    But before you commented, Garmon, I was going to say that I’d prefer wording along the lines of being passionate about all people fulfilling their potential, no matter where they come from or who or where they are. The gender one is particularly close to my heart on this one as to be honest words like “equality” and “non-judgmental” have been played with so much by Christians that they can mean everything and nothing all at once.

    Would be nice too to have something about Church being the body of Christ. Who can put that into non-jargon for me?

  8. Thanks for your thoughts.
    “we are part of church not for what we receive, but for what we can give” is intended to be the flip side of “we do not consume church”. It is a statement of what we do, rather than what we don’t do which is always more useful.
    I acknowledge that both giving and recieving are important, but I think we need to redress the balance and I like this as a memorable motto.

  9. On the subject of what we can give rather than receive and on existing primarily for non-members there are a few really easy things we could do to make new people/visitors much more welcome.

    Can I share them?
    1. Get to church early. It’s really embarrassing and awkward if you’re new to be the only one there at the beginning of church
    2. Sit nearer the front than the back. Let’s fill up from the front and let the visitors do the hiding at the back.
    3. Leave spaces at the end of the rows instead of the middle. This means new people don’t feel diseased when I sit 3 seats down from them and latecomers can creep in much more discreetly without having to create new rows at the back.
    4. Talk to a new person before we talk to a mate. They won’t hang around and wait for me to finish my conversation (but a friend will). It could be the thing that makes the difference between them coming back or not.

    If you did any visiting churches over the summer you’ll know how awkward it can be entering a new church – especially in one our size where a new person is quite conspicuous. Let’s go to church for what others can get out of it not just what we can.

  10. hmm, interesting. A Declaration. Having just been through something similar at work I know how difficult it is to write anything like this in committee… as the EU demonstrated with their attempt at a constitution.

    But what the heck! Here are my thoughts to continue from Mark’s starting point for discussion:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that we do not judge others (on the basis of education, wealth, appearance, gender or race)”.
    I would question the bits in brackets – once we start stating what we shouldn’t judge on, where do we end? Or, if not delete them, I would add ‘actions’ to the list. It’s not up to us to judge at all -yes to counsel and advise, but not to judge.

    “That we are part of church not for what we receive, but for what we can give.”

    I’m not sure that we this is true in practice; I’m not even sure that it should be. Isn’t there room for a bit of both? Although if what you’re trying to say is that we shouldn’t just be consumers of church, then I agree completely.

    If I was to suggest adding a ‘self-evident truth’ it would be along the lines of (although this is very unpolished):
    “The way we see and worship God is inevitably through the lenses of our culture and time. God is bigger than our culture and time, and therefore our way of doing things is not the only nor necessarily the best way”.

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