IMMIGRANTS & COMMANDMENT FIVE: HONOR YOUR PARENTS
I do not see anything wrong with para-church organizations: youth clubs, retreats, mission organizations, etc. What is oftentimes distracting about these groups is not keeping the main thing the main thing. Imagine becoming a physicist with a disregard of the Periodic Table of the Elements. Imagine becoming a political analyst with a disregard for statistical analysis. In similar fashion, fundamental to social constructs is the family. Fundamental to God's family is the Church. However way you spin it, the family is always there. In front of our faces. The Church is always there.
Commercial Christianity, I believe, has in many ways conceded to polytheism because it believes that the survival of Christianity depends upon the creative diversity of new fraternities. It is true that the Church has not functioned the way it should have in the 20th century. The Church has always been behind by at least 20 years if not by an entire generation. Now, does that mean that the Church is completely impotent or no longer relevant? Of course not, no more than your body is irrelevant because it rejects medicine or because it has an allergic reaction.
That is why "reform" is so necessary all of the time. The Church is not stagnant, but the Church has not arrived. You will see more people leave our church, and you will see more people come to our church, having left other churches. There will be this flow--in and out--of people. But if we are all the people of God working together, then no one is really leaving anywhere, are they? Do you understand this? If you can expand the breadth of who your "family" is, then you push the walls of your small cloister further and further out until your territory is exponentially expanded and you have more air to breathe, more room to walk.
In the same way, God is not consciousness. You cannot reduce the traits of the infinite God to the generic traits that would so easily make Him consciousness. It interests me that many commercialized pastors make the argument that "everyone is looking for something" or that "everyone wants love deep down inside" or that "everyone wants God." Those statements are nonsense statements or ambiguous generalities unless each has an antithesis. If the person sitting next to me in church is narcissistic & fancies his aims other than God's, then he and I are not worshiping the same God, nor are we working for the same ends regardless of the generalities made in Christian media.
Imagine Hard Bargain or Nolensville Road or Columbia, TN, and the problem is not so easily solved. Regardless of the ambiguity one makes of the aims of Christianity, it does not make the physical effort any easier. Why? Because you still have to deal with the old covenant of family. All men are born into families. That is a fundamental truth. The family is the basic molecule.
Today, people do not like their families, their heritage, or their genetic inheritance which is why people mark themselves and why they "blend" their families in creative ways. That is also why they develop new fraternities from the gang to the book club to the home church. Though genetic inheritance is not the most important of all importance, it is unavoidable. Evangelism that does not take into consideration the evangelism of the entire family is ignorant! If you understand how that basic structure works, then you understand the world at a deeper level than most. It is fun to evangelize children for many reasons. Some people see it as an easier job than evangelizing adults, but oftentimes the effectiveness of that strategy lasts only just as long as the children are pliable. Remember, they grow up. And they leave off childish things. I think it childish to evangelize a child while ignoring his larger human context which is his family.
Before he died, I had a talk with Denny Denson, former Chicago-based-Black-Panther-turned-pastor, about Black children in the housing projects in Franklin, Tennessee. I told him that I was surmising a way to provide scholarships for a few of these children to attend my school. "And what about the parents?" he asked. "What do you mean?" He was pissed that I was that ignorant. "You do no child a great service if you take him out of his environment to wine and dine him each morning only to send him back to the same place each night. If you have no solution for the parent then you have no solution for the child." Denny Denson is gone. But he is right.