Our Composting God: Making Meaning of the Mess

My ever-thoughtful wife has written a post comparing house church practice with Communism. I suggest you read it, then come back to my comment here below…

Well, wife-o-mine, a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was pretty tough to implement–it had never been done before! For years, Marxist thinkers and revolutionaries had fine-tuned their critique of capitalism, and it was largely quite valid. I think had they spent as much energy articulating what they were for, the transition from Russian czardom to a distributed system could have worked better and with less bloodshed.

Hmm…

As you no doubt know, I think that many of the critiques that we house-churchers have against more institutionally-driven expressions of Church are grounded in some solid intuition and research. And I also think that some of our positive visions of what a more egalitarian, ‘organic’ way of being under the guidance of the Spirit (or headship of Christ, as you put it) have beauty and merit too. BUT I’m thinking that maybe evolution is a better metaphor for what we’re seeking to embody than revolution. Lasting change tends to be gradual, and only then punctuated by a time of cataclysmic upheaval. We’ve been riding the wave of upheaval for awhile, but it might well be that greater humility toward established expressions are called for.

These days, instead of anticipating a remnant ‘torch of the testimony,’ I see Church History (and indeed, all history) as compost. At one point something was alive (and probably still is alive, in some manifestation), but then it died. After this, it begins to decompose-it might even stink a good deal. But that decomposing stew releases very helpful nutrients back into the soil–indeed, the soil itself is the product of eons of compost.

So even us ‘organic churches’ are planted in the soil of rich compost, of all that’s come before. We don’t need to eat from the Tree of Judgment, and determine what was good, bad, and ugly in the beliefs and actions of our forbears. Quaker, Anabaptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Orthodox–and yes, even house church…it’s all our compost. It’s all our soil. And we have one big God–disclosed in Christ–who transcends and includes all of this, helping us discern what was most good, true and beautiful about these past (and continuing) expressions, to celebrate and wisely use today. And of course, we have our sacred text, contemporary context, and Holy Spirit subtext to help us weave new meanings and trajectories for today and tomorrow.

God is at work, fermenting God’s good creation. Let’s compost church today!

Recommended Reading:

The Seeker’s Way by Dave Fleming

Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster

A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren

9 Responses to “Our Composting God: Making Meaning of the Mess”


  1. 1 Andrew B February 4, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    We have daughters who are radical socialists, so I recognise your thoughtful wife’s thought about the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat.

    I recently read a little booklet by Gene Edwards “Why So Many House Churches Fail and What to Do about It”.

    The main message is:
    – we will fail
    – as individual Christians
    – as church
    – we are failures
    – we are imperfect
    – we will not get it right
    But that is OK
    – as we accept Christ
    – God will heal and restore
    – we will become perfect in Him

    Edwards writes:

    “The day that each of us realizes that we are in fact a failure at being spiritual, we can begin doing what first century Christians did: hold on to one another for dear life – a glorious guild of failures, a club of the spiritually helpless, together stumbling our way to Christ.

    “It is called church life.”

    I think the advantage of house church environments over institutional church environments is that we are confronted much more directly with our failure. We do not have the shell of the institution and tradition around us with the appearance of holding things together or taking the blame for the failure. The failure is ours – us together sitting in this room in this house. We have to face one another and face Christ in our failure.

    So, let us be gentle in imposing our ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ on one another.

  2. 2 Carl McColman February 27, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I’ve seen communities with idealistic commitments to egalitarianism and non-authoritarian decision-making succumb to unconscious power-tripping, hidden agendas, and persons with naturally dominating personalities basically running the show by default. So I guess I tend to be rather skeptical of ideological egalitarianism. I think balance is helpful, where having openly acknowledged, accountable, and limited authority in what is essentially a democratic and, as much as possible, consensus-driven environment is probably the most workable/helpful scenario. Somebody named Irving Kristol once wrote a book called “Two Cheers for Capitalism” in which he admitted that capitalism wasn’t perfect (hence no third cheer) but he felt it was the best of all imperfect systems. I disagree with him about capitalism (!) but I agree with him that every system has a downside and so organizations have to decide where compromises need to be made for the overall good.

  3. 3 Jason Coker November 7, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Love your wife’s post…she sounds like my wife: wise, pragmatic, brutally honest. Good stuff.

    I like your compost metaphor too. It certainly explains why we stink so much over at Ikon. However, just by way of nitpicking, I might add that various forms of communal living have been tried numerous times in numerous cultures with much success and failure (no, not just failure as neo-liberal economists would have us believe).

    Andrew’s comments makes me want to cheer.

    Carl’s comment reminds me of the work of Peter Senge. All systems are flawed in this sense: they depend on people. We’ll all be far better of when the machines take over : )


  1. 1 I Should Coco « Sensual Jesus Trackback on January 29, 2008 at 12:02 am
  2. 2 Cowardly Comments Behind the Mask of Anonymity « zoecarnate Trackback on February 1, 2008 at 1:59 pm
  3. 3 Coming Out of the “Pagan Christianity” Closet « zoecarnate Trackback on February 8, 2008 at 3:43 pm
  4. 4 House Churching: Where I’m at Now « zoecarnate Trackback on December 8, 2008 at 5:29 pm
  5. 5 Organic Church: Full of Crap? « zoecarnate Trackback on January 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm
  6. 6 Coming Out of the “Pagan Christianity” Closet | Mike Morrell Trackback on August 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm

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