Tuesday, September 15, 2009

when pushing the envelope, don’t destroy the letter.

Many of us in the emerging church or missional conversations can become wary, disillusioned, and disappointed with the church. It moves so slowly. It changes imperceptibly. It squashed innovation ruthlessly (unless it is innovation of basically the same thing). Many times it seems that we can’t break out of the status quo without a serious jolt, a shock to the system, a dramatic upheaval.

And this is where we come in. The “we” of missional change. The “we” of emerging openness. The “we” of prophetic pronouncement. The “we” that wants to look back on our lives and know that “we” were on the side of history, of a great revolution, for God’s kingdom against the status quo of mere churchiness. And so “we” come to push the envelope. But often when “we” are pushing the envelope “we” end up destroying the letter. In the effort of tearing down walls we end up building new ones. Often we fail to accomplish what we set out to do, and lose ourselves and our relationships over an ideal.

But Paul, even in the midst of his immense frustration with the church in Corinth, needing to push all the envelopes and buttons to get them back in line, still could say and live:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor. 3:2-3)

Because letters written on hearts are from Christ, the ministries and individual which pushes the envelop in the name of Christ must take care not to destroy those letters in the process. Our zeal is no excuse for running over people and communities. So, when you are pushing the envelope, be sure you don't destroy the letter.


  1. Challenging, insightful thoughts, Geoff. Thanks.

  2. Walls are not usually broken down with a single large wave, but a small trickle through the cracks, eroding away the foundation to become a small stream which when joined by other seepages slowly grows into a rivulet. The momentous collapse of the wall creates obstacles around which the gushing water cascades. Only after the passage of time are the cracks filled in with dirt and debris, the river widening to become still waters.

    Similarly, the course of a river is not changed with the erection of a wall, but small streams cutting furrows across new ground. Water presses against the banks, cresting low spots to carve a new path to the sea. The river carries the waste of world which snags on the rocks of life, shunting more water in the newly cut direction until the whole river follows that pioneer trickle to the sea.