Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Purpose-Less Church

A story is told among actors about an old-school type working with a method actor. I heard it as either Olivier or Michael Caine speaking to Dustin Hoffman. (The former is more likely because of "Marathon Man.") Hoffman was doing his Stanislavsky shtick of getting into his character's skin and becoming his character. Olivier remonstrated "Why don't you try acting, dear boy?"

In all our discussions of what being a church should mean, or of what being The Church should mean, there is this assumption, a very American one, I think, that there is some necessity of having a Purpose. Lengthy discussions and debates take place with much agony of spirit trying to discern what God's special direction is for a church. Is it our mission to reach out to the community, or to send missionaries, or to exemplify Christian community, or to appeal to seekers, or to bikers, or what? What's our mission statement, what's our vision?

Why not just be a church?


Kelly said...

Ah, but it's so much easier to be a human do-ing. We at least get occasional clues from outside what God might be calling us to do; rarely who he is calling us to be. Or become.

terri said...

This post reminds me of some stuff at

He did a couple of posts about being purposeless and caught a lot of flak for it. He's from a different church tradition, but same sort of thoughts in regards to this.

Plus he has some cool cartoons..

Dubbahdee said...

Well, Pilgrim, pull up your shorts and get ready because this purpose thing is going to be coming up for discussion in the near future, thanks to our good friends of the consulting team. It goes by many names; purpose, mission, vision etc.
Neatly sidestepping the issue of "what is the value of this exercise anyways" I will say that I have no problem if you should, in fact I would strongly encourage you to, postulate the the answer to the coming question as you just did.

I like it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I may. Yet I also know that I am a statistical outlier everywhere I go, for good reasons and bad, and my views on the subject may be merely an undigested bit of beef, as Scrooge says. As an overdominant speaker, I do actually hesitate before pushing forward ideas of "what should we do," for fear of swallowing the Holy Spirit, feathers and all. Though my comments are many in discussion, and quite emphatic about ideas, I am tentative about calls to action.

Thanks, though.

Ben Wyman said...

Because if you don't have a purpose, you end up focusing primarily on the things that should be secondary, like finances and music and service times and organized community events and so on. And suddenly you have no idea why you come to church at all anymore.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

A fair point, sir. I was hoping that people would just show up, worship, pray, sing, be good to each other, eat together, teach the kids, find something helpful to do in the community, but that may be overidealization on my part. Mankind does have a remarkable ability to find things to worry about - if not large ones, then small ones will do.