"If you want to have a church or organization that has a vision and a mission at its forefront, then you have to put the personal development and relationships of the individual members second.
In other words, you can either have a task group or a community."
It has been my experience that every institutional church has a mission at its forefront - namely to 'do church'. I've never yet come across a church which puts relationships ahead of this ongoing mission.
In fact, quite the opposite.
Time after time, I've seen people sacrificed - or steamrolled - by those who see themselves as being custodians of 'the vision'.
People who were being 'difficult'. People who were asking questions. People who were hurting and in need of care. People who were just getting in the way of the smooth operation of the institution.
But it got me thinking. There was that one time when something different happened...
We'd had a regular service planned. Worship songs chosen. Sermon written. Everything set in place.
And then we got the news.
The couple, whose pregnancy we'd been so joyfully celebrating, had lost their baby. This wasn't the first time. (And although we didn't know it at the time, it wouldn't be the last.)
But we knew we couldn't just carry on as if nothing had happened.
So we cancelled all those important plans we'd made. We put them aside because we knew that when one member of our family mourned, we needed to mourn with them.
And so we met together for our Sunday service. And we grieved, and we hurt, and we wept. And we made place for God even though we couldn't understand him. And we made a space for all to speak, to share, to question. We acted like a real community.
Tragically, that was a once-off event. An isolated experience. Months later, when we were being torn apart in the name of man's ambition, it was business as usual. Move along. Nothing to see here. Just ignore the broken hearts, the bloody corpses.
The show must go on!