Friday 10 April 2020

Clan churches should be as strong as families

Just to clarify something about the concept of 'clan' churches I described yesterday as the church of the future; I think there is a tendency to set the bar too low with what a church needs to be able to do.

People tend to judge churches like secular institutions; and therefore regard a church as successful if it can only survive and grow as an organisation; if it can elicit attendance and financial or other contributions.

But it has become clear in the birdemic crisis and its response that churches cannot create and sustain courage and deep motivation in the way that families so often do.

If the church is to be a true family of faith, as Jesus described in the later parts of the Fourth Gospel; we would expect far more of it than a mere institution!

We take it for granted that family members often (willingly) make substantial and irreversible commitments and huge self-sacrifices for each other - it is common to give-up work and move location in order to be near and care for a child or spouse.

Parents often spend half (not ten percent) of their income on their children. And do so voluntarily and from love. And this is quite normal and unremarked.

Do people routinely do the same for an unrelated church member in the large institutional churches? No they do not; and never have done - except sometimes (and unstably) in a monastic setting.  

Yet a successful Clan Church would need to be able to elicit similar levels of voluntary and loving commitment from its members - because it is a faith family.

Two thousand years of institutional Christian churches shows that such a level commitment cannot be imposed or elicited top down with large numbers of people; no matter what levels of education, propaganda or coercion.

(And anyway these churches have voluntarily destroyed themselves in recent weeks.) 

Commitment and courage must come from the same depths of spontaneity and naturalness as in the family - and depends on individuals and circumstances in the same way. Otherwise, the unit of Christian activity will necessarily be the individual.


Epimetheus said...

You're onto something here. Even the home church I attend shut it all down for Corvid, and I've had all of one phone call from the other members in the last few weeks - and I haven't made any phone calls myself. The indifference of it all is striking. The only Bible studies I've had since then have been with family members, proving your point in my case.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Epi - Good example.

It's a strange business when you look at the Fourth Gospel and see the close-family level of personal commitment that Jesus was asking from his disciples; as how they should behave after he went away - and you compare this with what actually happened. Two millenia shows that this is not something that scales-up very far; nor is love something that can be elicited by abstract rules.

In practice, even much lower levels of commitment than in families (like a ten percent tithe) have been impossible to implement in the major institutions unless coercively imposed by law, as a tax - which is a completely different thing!

Ron Tomlinson said...

Yes. It seems that 'family life' and 'social life' are now more and more in opposition.

Clan life would be the antithesis. So it makes sense.