When The Categories Break Down

Have you noticed?
The categories we used to make sense of the theological and ecclesiastical world aren’t so helpful anymore. In fact, they are breaking down as we speak.

Churches, organizations, institutions, and even nations experience seasons when their culture is consistent, coherent, and unified (mostly). Change happens during these seasons slowly; incrementally. These are periods of stability wherein their basic paradigm or model expressing who they are remains intact. During these times, leadership archetypes are clearly understood and recognized. Then, enough factors supporting their stable organizational culture change, requiring shifts in nearly everything. Certainly one can see this occurring in this nation, due to shifts within and beyond our borders (global environment now). The state of American politics is exhibit number one, simply one outcome of major cultural shifts. Major cultural change shifts the environment so that previously intact political categories (like Republican, Democrat and Independent) can’t hold anymore. There is so much diversity within political parties that they are struggling to remain intact. Political categories are exploding, turning into something very different than what we understood them to be ten years ago.

Here in Pinnacle’s tenth year, as we continue to work ecumenically within the Christian community, it’s clear that the way congregations have understood themselves is also radically changing. A good conservative/moderate/liberal person cannot be counted on to be fit their “label.” A good denomination no longer is unified in its understanding of what it means to be part of that tribe. A good pastor will be progressive and conservative, depending on the topic under consideration. Then add generational differences, socioeconomic influences and contextual variables…and the categories are exploding as we speak. Just as nations around this globe are undergoing massive change in their self-understanding, so is the church world.

And thanks be to God!

God calls us to understand this world differently anyway. In Christ, the barriers humans previously used to segregate each other break-down. Instead, God calls us to a wider perspective, based on the love of Jesus Christ. There is great opportunity for God’s Church at this particular point in time….now is our chance to take advantage of the cultural openings created when the categories explode. Now is our opportunity to model what it looks like to be in community with others, regardless of our differences. The world needs a mature expression of God’s Church in a huge way. Now is our opportunity to invite others into God’s Beloved Community. So the categories are breaking down? Thanks be to God. They never served us well anyway.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA