perpetual tension

If you read a lot of blogs, you’ll notice that some people are really creative with the title of their blog. One blog I occasionally read is called “Already Been Chewed.” It is a graphic designer’s blog and the title comes from the fact that this particular artist gets much of his inspiration for his new creations from what other people have already created. Pretty clever!

Well, I decided it is time to officially change the name of my blog from “my blog” to a more catchy title–one that captures my purpose for blogging. So, from here on, this blog will be known as “perpetual tension.”

Strange name, right? Well, let me explain…

Allen, our lead pastor at Immanuel, and I were talking one day and I was mentioning to him a tension I was feeling between our serious need for new audio/visual systems in our worship center and the fact that there are people in our own backyard who don’t have food or gas heating in their house. He told me he thought that we probably always want to feel that tension. That’s when the concept of “perpetual tension” came to my mind.

Think about it. As a Christ follower, there is the perpetual tension of being in the world but not of the world. (John 17:14-45). That is a tension that will not go away until Jesus comes and takes us out of this world.

For me, there are a number of “perpetual tensions” that I have been facing lately. I spent nearly 7 1/2 years in a more “attractional” church setting. The goal of an attractional church is to attract as many people to the church with great music, great teaching and great programs. The primary strategy for evangelism in this type of setting is to invite unsaved people to the church so the paid professional can share the gospel and the person gives their life to Christ. If you’ve read any of the previous entries of my blog, you know that God began to stir a discontent in me for that type of church.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is what is often called “missional” or “incarnational” church. In this type of church, the emphasis is NOT on the corporate worship gathering or a facility. Instead, the emphasis is on equipping people to live as missionaries in their communities. However, when the pendulum swings too far this way, it can easily become an angry movement that wags its finger at anything perceived as “attractional” ministry. Having a church-owned facility or even full-time staff members can even be vilified among some hard-core missional circles.

A few weeks ago, I read a wonderful blog post by a missional church leader. In his post, he shared the thoughts of a missionary who had visited one of their services. The missionary recounted the warm and intimate environment and found it refreshing that the worship time was led by one guy on an acoustic guitar with a simple sound system instead of the mega-production that occurs in many large attractional churches.

Immediately, I felt the tension building within me. I want that type of environment!–intimate, casual, free-flowing, authentic, not over-produced. That was what I experienced for 6 months as we helped start browns mill church. But then God called me to a church of 400 people and a 1200 seat worship center and the intimate, casual, free-flowing thing just doesn’t seem to fit. Can a church with more than 50 people be missional even though we have full-time staff members and a 66,000 sq/ft facility?

Perpetual tension is the answer. It looks like my world will be one of forces pulling me in opposite directions. On one side will be the external pull toward “attractional” with a worship band, multimedia presentations and new audio/visual equipment. On the other side will be the internal pull from my heart toward “missional/incarnational” where we put a higher value on equipping people to live like Jesus during the week than producing a great show for people to enjoy.

What perpetual tensions are you facing? Post a comment and share it!

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