We were standing on the deck that my wife had just painted, sipping coffee, enjoying the flowers and the refreshing scent of a lilac bush, when she noticed something.
This is not always a good thing. Something she "notices" can translate into a big project. Being the kind, compassionate husband that I am, it often means my involvement. This was to be no exception.
She noticed some peeling paint from the underside of the deck railing. Sure enough, the paint couldn't hold because of wood rot. That fleck of paint peeling from a deck rail got me thinking about Christianity and the Church in general.
I don't know about you but I've grown weary of discussions about the cultural changes impacting the Church and how the traditional church is going to flounder on the rocks of imminent disaster. I think I understand the theological issues extant in these discussions. I agree that there are enough serious differences that warrant our prayerful attention. But the cacophony and rhetoric threatens to drown out the "still, small voice" that must be the input by which the Church is guided.
That flecking, dangling paint chip reminded me that too many times I've been tempted to look at the surface. As long as that paint chip remained in place, I never thought about probing the wood to check for moisture or dry rot. But once the paint chip began peeling away from the wood, what was hidden became obvious. And I thought about the potential analogy lurking in my simple observation.
Is the "paint" that has provided the Church with its identity peeling away, and if so, is it only because the Church is being yanked by some into postmodernity? We've heard the comparisons between traditional, modern, and postmodern expressions of the church. Quite frankly, a lot of the material is very descriptive. It is difficult at best to quantify and verify beyond a shadow of doubt some of the assumptions and arguments being put forward. Generalizations are numerous, but often just that.
My concerns are about the heart of the Church, not just the paint. Is the dry rot of lethargy, fear, and division eating away, unnoticed and unaddressed? Are we succumbing to the strident tones of arguments that force labels on anyone suggesting meaningful change? What about the ethics and principles of the Body of Christ?
Are we taking advantage of opportunities to be the salt and light Jesus referred to when He was describing us? Have we settled for change when we could have made a difference? Have we opted for questions and jettisoned the certainties of our faith? Are we such good friends of the popular culture that we have lost our prophetic voice?
I'll be out there on the deck with my tools. The wood may be too far-gone for more caulking and fresh paint. I may have to replace it.
I wonder . . . does God ever replace?
David J. Felter, editor in chief
Holiness Today, | July/August 2010