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Barbarians can become bureaucrats

A few months ago I was up on a roof in Hong Kong listening to Andrew Shearman preach his guts out to our January 07 Racers for one final time. It was an appropriate venue to talk about becoming roof-rippers. Shearman makes the point that although this year has radicalized them, turning them …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

A few months ago I was up on a roof in Hong Kong listening to Andrew
Shearman
preach his guts out to our January 07 Racers for one final
time. It was an appropriate venue to talk about
becoming roof-rippers.

Shearman makes the point that although this year
has radicalized them, turning them into barbarians, life back in the
States has the potential to domesticate them again, turning them into
bureaucrats.

Shearman cites Jesus’ story of the four men who ripped a hole in the roof to lower their friend down to see Jesus. They defied convention to get the job done. Down below, so many religious people had filled the house that it was impossible for the poor and the needy to reach Jesus.

They
had formed what Shearman calls “an exclusion zone.” The parallel, of
course, is that we do the same thing with our churches. Sadly, many are
homogeneous and keep pain at arm’s length.

Because
we as humans have a default position of comfort, we need to guard
against filling our churches with religion that keeps the poor and
needy out. It goes on in our hometown in Georgia
all the time. One of our large denominational churches wasn’t satisfied
with its enormous campus and just dropped who knows how many millions
of dollars on a new building project.

This is the same church where I
got a report of a friend who inadvertently sat in some lady’s pew one
Sunday and was told, “Excuse me, you’re sitting in my seat.”

We
need to practice our dangerous heritage as roof-rippers, pushing past
the exclusion zone, bringing Jesus into contact with those he longs to
touch and heal.

And
we need to be prepared to even wreck life-long investments and
religious conventions to see his kingdom come in our lives. What
exclusion zones do you have? Your home? Your friends? Your church? What
are some roofs in your life that need to be ripped?

Comments (6)

  • My brother is volunteering at a homeless shelter in Lamar, Colorado…it’s the only one within 250 miles. They had 2,200 people come through last year. 2 weeks ago, the Council of Churches quit supporting AND closed the doors to a homeless shelter. Is their anything more bureaucratic than that?

  • As I was reading I thought “Where does the movement of Shane Claiborne fit into this?” Is he a roof ripper or an abandoner of houses? I think my perception is that there are a lot of people out there who want to leave the church and start something new because they don’t have the guts to confront whats wrong in their church. I know my response to disfunctional church is to get up and go somewhere else.Thoughts?

  • Corey, I think that we can re-imagine church without abandoning it. Most of us in America are working with a broken model of church, and when you add broken people to the mix (an inevitability), you’ve got a lot of mess to deal with. So, sometimes, I think it’s okay to wipe the dust off of our feet and go in search of the remnant. I don’t like that people think of “the church” as the local buildings where people go on Sundays. So, if I stop going to those buildings, then I’ve somehow “abandoned the church.” Now, that doesn’t make sense to me. What does make sense to me is that if I neglect to go visit a friend who’s a Christian in the hospital or give some money to a needy widow then I have abandoned the church in a way that is very real and offensive to God. That has nothing to do with my Sunday School attendance. Admittedly, I often abandon church while in the building, by just going through the motions and really neglecting the opportunity to connect with people. Often seeing people as a means to an end (not a good thing, I know), this is probably my number one struggle.

  • Corey, I think the answer to the question is that each person has to ask is where does God want me? I do not mean to be trite, but having spent many hours searching for the answer to this question over many years, I am convinced there is no other answer. There can be very effective ministries within very dysfunctional churches. Just because a church is not what God wants it to be does not mean it is time to move on. This is true even if the Church cannot be changed from the inside. There are balances in trying to confront the wrong, such as dealing with spiritual authorities in the manner that God instructs. There are also times when people show all the guts in the world to speak boldly as the Holy Spirit leads and the church rejects the message, and sometimes the messenger. At this point, the Church and the leaders have to answer to God. This, however, does not necessarily mean it is time to move on. Too many times people look at their church in a very selfish manner and ask what is the church doing for me. This leads to perpetual dissatisfaction and tends to lead to moving from church to church to church. The question that needs to be ask is am I in the church that God wants me in and am I doing the things in this church God wants me to do?

  • Seth, thanks for the reminder, I needed that this morning. I’m grateful for leaders who are encouraging people not to settle but to keep pushing for more.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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