the honeypot of structure

This week, members of my church’s denomination from across Canada will gather together to discuss issues relating to their ministry there, but also to speak into current discussions/processes that are underway in our governance that carry the potential for sweeping change. After quite a few conversations with friends & leaders in the Canadian CRC, I felt compelled to share this – which has application to our denomination as a whole, not just to those north of the border:

My Dear Friends in the Canadian CRC:

A few weeks back, I was able to author a piece with my friend Heather Boekee about the tension and cooperative effect that is present in the relationship between CRC churches in the US and CRC churches in Canada. Since that time, some of you have corresponded with me positively and some negatively – but that just makes it a blog I wrote. Now, friends, as you get ready to gather for the C3 Conversation, let me offer you some hopefully-prophetic words of encouragement/wisdom:

Structure is one of the most convenient points for conflict in any organization.

The main reason is that structure is inanimate, inhuman – and thus makes a good punching bag. However, let me venture to say to you that structure is a bit like the honey in the bottom of the honeypot of our good friend Winnie the Pooh. It isn’t bad – in fact, it’s very tasty in small spoonfuls, er, pawfuls. It serves it purpose – it even makes toast taste better. But like Winnie the Pooh, too often we are quick to jump in headfirst into any discussion that involves structure thinking, in a vacuum, that it encompasses everything we need to get from here to there. But like Winnie the Pooh, those of us who dive head-first into the honeypot of structure often end up like he so often did – oblivious to what’s going on right under our nose and powerless to do what really needs doing.

Structure, it seems, is a lusty siren who ultimately lures our boats, full of hope, to inevitable failure.

Structure makes an easy scapegoat, once again, because it is inhuman, with no ability to fight back. But when the things we’re doing aren’t working and we feel the whisper of inevitable calamity breathing down our necks, structure is exactly where many of us turn. Isn’t it true, however, that, if everything were firing on all cylinders in our denomination right now, nobody would give two hoots about structure? We’d all be too busy about the work of the Kingdom, like a fishermen in John 21, too many Kingdom victories to bicker about the “how”.

Structure also makes a terrible savior.

Though that doesn’t stop us from continually worshipping at it’s altar, waiting for the next wave of blessing to come our way like the farmer in Field of Dreams who hears “if you build it [correctly], they will come.” History is riddled with story after story of folks who met their demise after they had their structure right but their substance lacking. How do I know? I, too, have worshipped at that altar, spilled a fair bit of ink and swam in the sea of structure. But I’ve learned that we don’t ultimately serve a God who asks to have our I’s dotted and our T’s crossed – in fact, He is one who usually works through the unintelligent, the disheveled, the unorganized and the undeserving. Structure is at its best when it follows impact. I long for and ask God for churches across Canada to explode with growth and impact, but I don’t think focusing on structure will get you there.

Could it be brothers and sisters, that our recent emphasis on structure in our denomination (both on the Canadian AND the American side) has simply been the distraction we needed from the fear our beloved churches closing one-by-one? Might we be trying to passively-aggressively handle problems that could be worked out with honest conversation across the aisle instead of amongst our factions? Could we give eachother the benefit of the doubt and simply pray for Kingdom work wherever it finds itself and whoever may be the executives over that work? Can we appreciate the positives and negatives of structure rather than making it the scapegoat or savior?

Sometimes we need the help of friends (even small, pink, piggly-looking ones) to remind us that very little gets done when your head is consumed by the honeypot.