Inside/outside. Something is either in or out. You cannot be both completely inside and completely outside. It is a spacial impossibility. However, you can be on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out. But in order to do so, you have be in a certain place at a certain time. Place and time make inside and outside possible.
As a church planter, the most frequently asked question I get from church people is “Where is your building?” In church, we always say church is not a building, it is a people. But I am convinced, because of the frequency of questions like this, and more importantly the way we live our lives most church people believe that church is a place that we do things at more than it is anything else. In other words, if you ask people, “What is church?”, they will describe something they do at a place they go a few hours each week on Sunday.
This is the problem, when church is a place you do something at, it becomes a spacial reality. It has an inside and an outside. When you are on the inside you concern yourself with things that are inside. When I am in my house, I do household things. When I am inside, I militantly uphold the insideness of inside. I yell at my kids for playing with outdoor things inside. I talk about using “inside voices.” I have a whole cabinet full of bottles and spray cans filled with things especially designed to keep outside-dirt outside and outside-critters outside. Even within our very language—a castle becomes a ruin, when the outside has invaded the inside in the form of trees and bushes and lichen on the stairwells and in the banquet hall. I like the inside and I want to keep it that way. There is a whole regimen of things we do, unconsciously, to keep the outside outside and maintain the insideness of inside.
We have a whole regimen within the church of keeping what’s on the outside outside. Consequently, there is often a very strict and legal delineation of who and what is in and who and what is out. What is “in” is really spiritual, what is “out” is carnal and unspritiual. What is “in” is pure and what is “out” is corrupt. At its worst we divide reality between what is spiritual and what is not. Everything inside the church begins to appear to be the only thing that is spiritual and everything else–well . . . it is going to hell in a handbasket. So . . . we spend a great deal of time making sure that who and what we are attached to isn’t in that handbasket. The problem with this conception is that it isn’t true. Yes there are truths and there are lies. The “Truth” does exist. There are right things and wrong things. But . . . everything is spiritual. In the Bible, the author of Hebrews, writes “That in Him we move and have our being.” We worship the God of the heavens (The “heavens” is literally the very air around us. And it is in it that we live and move and breath. And it is from it that God speaks.)
There are really two streams of thought in the world: “Know thyself” and “Love they neighbor.” “Know thyself” epitomizes the inward quest. It assumes that in order to know the world, I must first know myself. Historically, Christianity stood for the concept that knowledge of self is not an inward pursuit but an outward pursuit. I.e. “I truly know myself when I know and love God—a personality outside myself.” Ironically, when I know God who is outside myself, He comes inside and makes me a sort of dwelling for himself. That is when I truly become me. In that instant outside is inside. It breaks all spacial rules.
To further complicate things, Jesus said that the pursuit of knowing and loving God is related to “loving thy neighbor.” In first John 4, the apostle makes the relationship between the two even clearer. Everyone who knows God, loves his neighbor(brother); one who doesn’t love his brother does not know or love God, because God is love. The two commandments are two sides of the same coin. Loving our neighbor is an expression of our love for God. It is a testimony of the character of God which is love.
If this is true for us individually, could it be true of us organizationally? When we know and love God, in some ways the inside/outside dichotomy breaks down. It really must, if we are to truly love our neighbor which according the Apostle John, is how the world will know that we are followers of Christ, could it be true that in order to fulfill our mission organizationally that the inside/outside dichotomy must break down?
Currently there is a raging debate over what church should and shouldn’t do. Largely it is a debate about what happens at a building for a few hours on Sunday. I think that this debate is based upon a huge assumption—that “church” is something we do a few hours on Sunday. This assumption is the fuel of the debate. What if church is something altogether different.
When Jesus says, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Is He talking about a few hours on Sunday? When He says of Peter’s faith, “Upon this rock, I will build a few hours on Sunday? When the Apostle Paul says the purpose of church “is to equip the saints for the work of service” is he referring to a few hours on Sunday? When the Apostle Paul says that the church is the hope of the world, are the things we do for a few hours on Sunday the hope of the world?
What if church really isn’t a place we go to a few hours on Sunday? What if we really believed and acted upon “We are the church.” At that point, it is not about about who is inside and who is outside. It is not about us against them. It is about us, a group of people, on mission to change “this.” “This” is everything else. It is every career, every invention, every musical composition, it is our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with our friends and family. “This” is everything. We are on mission to change it–to transform it according to vision of its creation.