Have you ever hung a picture by yourself? If it's just one nail and you can get it pretty close, that's not too bad. But if it's one of those get-two-hangers-in-the-wall-and-level-it pictures, it gets tricky. Here's why: Not because you can't hang it level -- but you can't decide just where to hang it and at the same time, step back and get some perspective on just where you want it to hang.
Not a perfect illustration, I know. But I'm convinced that for most of us in the western Christian church, it's hard to step back and get any kind of perspective on what's happening these days. The culture, the church, and so much else has changed so fast.
The study of the church -- a strange and fascinating brand of theology -- is called "ecclesiology." Back in the late 20th century, ecclesiology was a boring and much-neglected branch of theology. Seminaries rarely had classes on the church. It was something we assumed we understood.
Suddenly in the last 20 years, ecclesiology has become the cutting edge of theology. There are more books on the church and what it should look like than you can imagine. Bloggers (!), podcasters, websites galore -- all are trying to offer some perspective on the church.
I've been leading, participating in, watching, and puzzling over churches for a long time now, and I'm going to weigh in with a few reflections. Here's the plan: I'm going to lay out in a series of blog posts what I think is happening in churches today, what God is up to in that, and what biblical Christianity looks like here and now.
For the next many weeks, I'm going to try to write this out and let you chew on it, comment on it, be sharpened by it, reject it ... do what you need to do. This is the topic that, in the wisdom of God, doesn't seem willing to let me go. My goal is to be 1) true to the big picture of what the Bible has to say about the church, 2) honest about what's going on in churches today, the strengths and the embarrassing weaknesses, and 3) relevant to people who love and care about the church and its direction. I'll try to post at least weekly, maybe more often. (I do have a day job, and it's fall in Minnesota so hunting and a few other pursuits need a little time.) I haven't written these reflections ahead, though I am working from an outline. So your comments along the way will very likely help shape the conversation.
Let's see if we can step back and gain some perspective on this thing. And maybe, just maybe, we can help this picture hang just a little straighter.