Have you ever come across that phrase: the devil is in the detail? I think it means that when you examine something closely, when you come to plan something in detail, there will often be a hidden, unexpected snag or difficulty to overcome. I think it’s probably true that when you think of a big idea or concept you won’t be aware of all of the possible pitfalls and it’s only when you get to the detailed planning stage that you will become aware of them. Big ideas sound simple, but the devil is in the detail. For example:
Big Idea: I am going to climb Mt Everest. Details containing devil: logistical planning, physical training, correct equipment, checking meteorological / seasonal information, planning for diminished oxygen supply at altitude, passports, and so on.
Big Idea: I am going to run for President / Prime Minister. Details containing devil: advertising / promotion, political allies and opponents, timing (when’s the next election), choosing popular policies, selecting a team to support me, finances, and so on.
So when Jesus had his big idea that he was going to use ‘church’ as the means by which people who know nothing about his life, teaching, death and resurrection would encounter him, and to demonstrate his love and good news in practical ways, I imagine it seemed like a good, simple idea.
It all sounded so simple when he said, “Follow me.” Even, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” is not that complicated –
I am not sure that the devil is actually in the detail of church (although he does try), but from time to time I sit and ponder how we have made such a simple big idea so complicated?
I am sure Jesus didn’t have in mind that churches would become wealthy and powerful institutions; he didn’t want ‘following him’ to become ossified into a religion; when you look at how he reacted against religious practices in his day that replaced the relationship God wants, I struggle with the rituals, costumes and special language we use in church; I think he would be distressed at how politics and preferences distract us from what he has created us to be; He would despair at how disagreements about what we think he would have said have led us to ignore what he actually said; he would shudder with shame at leaders falling from grace; and he would weep at churches that are damaging people and distracting them from faith in him.
I recognise that I am part of the system that I am commenting on here: Jesus didn’t mention ordained Ministry never mind Regional Ministers! I do believe that such roles are important to help churches, but our primary purpose is not to strengthen the church but to seek to enable and encourage churches to do what Jesus envisaged we would do. And if there is detail to be worked out, let’s seek to find God in it instead.
Be blessed, be a blessing