Speed of Church

“We are not called to build a better church. We are called to go and tell about the one Who is doing a ‘new thing’” -Kenda Creasy Dean

We tend to have two speeds in the church: either abject sluggishness or frenetic hustle. We either do nothing, perhaps out of apathy or paralysis, standing on the sidelines, content to just keep the church lights on. Sometimes it's just that we're bogged down by our own administrative process (I sometimes say that things move "at the speed of church" to explain that something will take a while). Or we panic, thinking we must accomplish everything at once and that the church’s survival depends on us!

While the former may be powered by bureaucratic intransigence or traditionalism and the latter may be fueled by anxiety, this whole dualism is a symptom of our capitalist society’s fixation on achievement, growth, and ambition. Everything is our responsibility. So unless we’re basically doing nothing, we’re expected to do everything. It’s all or nothing, and we all feel the weight of responsibility on our shoulders.

But there is a third option that’s much more liberating but much harder to apprehend in our context. The third option isn’t a matter of speed or acceleration. It’s not just that we must slow down. The third option is about reframing whose action really matters in the first place. We need to free ourselves from the assumption that we’re the star of the show.

It’s God who’s doing a “new thing,” not us. God is the star of the show! It’s God’s action, not ours, that really makes the difference. This third speed is active, but it isn’t ambitious (at least not in the traditional sense of the word). We get to see ourselves not as innovators and initiators–not as the ones who must build the church or control the world–but as playful participants in the work that belongs to God. The primary action of this third speed isn’t construction, it’s prayer; it’s tuning into what God is doing, noticing God where we hadn’t seen God before, and proclaiming, in word and deed, “LOOK WHAT GOD IS DOING.”