God desires to create, and it is a fascinating lens through which to view the bible ... a story of God's creativity to fulfill his desire for us (check it out here).
Moreover, creativity is power theology (Is 41:20). It transforms us, changes our worldview about who God is and what he's doing. His creativity can become our in-spirit-ization!
But what about institutions? Can institutions be inspired? Of course, through the people that make up the institution. It is by our life experience of walking with God that we grow the procedures, rituals, hierarchy, styles, and culture on which our church institutions are built, and through which we worship in community and reach out into the sinful and social context around us. These institutional elements are as much a part of a Christian institution as our noses, knees, and knuckles are part of ourselves.
In an institution, the procedures establish a path of Godly behavior, rituals ingrain holy patterns and symbolic understanding, hierarchy is a vehicle for wisdom to prevail, styles frame our dynamic worship expressions, and culture brings identity to community.
But what if, or when, an institution loses it's in-spirit-ization?
When our reliance on God's voice fails in the midst of complex and evolving situations, when past experience is no longer a valid model for the present, what then? Then we fall back on the known quantity; when faced with uncertainty, our institutional structure. And so, in todays post-modern (even post-Christian), frenetic, relativistic, mystic, and emotive society of pseudo-sophistication surrounded by intellectual poverty, what then does the Christian institution do?
When in-spirit-ization is lost, institutions make fools of themselves.
The known quantity, in the absence of in-spirit-ization, are simply procedures, rituals, hierarchy, styles, and culture. Over-reliance on the known quantity leads to:
- Procedures: that kill flexibility and suppress creative solutions
- Rituals: parasitically depleting the meaning of rich theology
- Hierarchy: exercising dull authority to avoid personal responsibility
- Styles: determining normative behaviors of yesteryear, out of touch with the world we seek to reach
- Culture: drawing boundaries and building barriers between communities, isolating us from the lost
So I ask, is the institution that has lost its in-spirit-ization, that is incapable of creative solutions in order to be Jesus to the world, and to give to God the gift he desires, is that institution flirting with systemic evil?
** In-spirit-ization: I picked this up from a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. I should say that I have serious disagreements with Gilbert on theology, but this little expression was valuable.