From Mike Cope

In the midst of some old posts on Mike Cope’s blog I found this quote, which describes quite well some thoughts I have been tossing around for a while. It’s from the book The Shaping of Things To Come, which I have not read so cannot fully endorse.

“A useful illustration is to think of the difference between wells and fences. In some farming communities, the farmers might build fences around their properties to keep their livestock in and the livestock of neighboring farms out. This is a bounded set. But in rural communities where farms or ranches cover an enormous geographic area, fencing the property is out of the question. In our home of Australia, ranches (called stations) are so vast that fences are superfluous. Under these conditions a farmer has to sink a bore and create a well, a precious water supply in the Outback. It is assumed that livestock, though they will stray, will never roam too far from the well, lest they die. This is a centered set. As long as there is a supply of clean water, the livestock will remain close by.

“Churches that see themselves as a centered set recognize that the gospel is so precious, so refreshing that, like a well in the Australian Outback, lovers of Christ will not stray too far from it. It is then a truly Christ-centered model. Rather than seeing people as Christian or non-Christian, as in or out, we would see people by their degree of distance from the center, Christ. In this way, the missional-incarnational church sees people as Christian and not-yet-Christian. It acknowledges the contribution of not-yet-Christians to Christian community and values the contribution of all people. Jesus’ faith community was clearly a centered set, with him at the center. . . . There was a rich intersection of relationships with some nearer the center and others further away, but all invited to join in the kingdom-building enterprise. If the modern church followed this biblical model, the church would be more concerned with relationships than with numbers.”

It seems to me a whole bunch of my christian experience has been obsessed with the idea of who is in and who is out. In or out drives so much of why/how we do “church” and how we deal with the people around us. I’m dissatisfied with the idea… hasn’t made sense to me for some time now, but like lots of other things, pulling away and actually finding new ways to act is difficult.

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