“There is no box,” was the premise of a blog post I saw this morning. The author suggested that for all the talk about “thinking outside the box”, there is no box. But I disagree. There are all kinds of boxes, and as the picture I found on the internet suggests, even a box of boxes.
When it comes to church life there has been a box of boxes, in my opinion. The outside container, the “box of boxes” is what many have simply called Christendom. Ever since Constantine declared the Roman Empire essentially to be Christian, the container shaping almost all, at least western, paradigms have fit inside that Christendom box. Once inside that “box” there are hundreds of kinds of boxes. There are Baptist boxes, and Presbyterian boxes; Methodist, Catholic, Episcopalian. And in reality inside those boxes are even smaller boxes. Take Baptists for example. There are Southern Baptists, American Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Regular Baptists, Independent Baptists, Irregular Baptists, Foot-Washing Baptists, and so on. And if I choose my own denominational roots, Southern Baptists, there are boxes inside that box: Traditional, Contemporary, Calvinists, Non-Calvinists, and every nuance or tribe of difference that you might imagine. And most of us have some level of the box within the box, within the box, that pretty much dictates what we think related to church life.
A conversation the other day with a friend yielded this result. He said, “Brad, you are like me, just messed up. You don’t fit in the boxes.” In 2004, when God called me out of the business world back into vocational ministry, the Director of Missions for the Columbia Metro Baptist Association, Bill Dieckmann, said to me, “Brad, the church world has really changed a lot in the last 13 years. You need to retool.” I took him seriously, and I have tried to do just that.
But here is the thing. Most people still think inside their boxes. But I believe that the Church is not just an organization directed by people. I believe that it is a living organism empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. I haven’t found a BOX that is big enough to contain God, although I know many people who try to keep God in a box they are comfortable with. But if indeed God will not fit in a box, any living organism directed by His Spirit cannot be contained within a box either.
So Brad, what is your point? Well, I contend, let God be God. And let’s loose the church from our man made boxes, and once again let the Church be the Church. God’s Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit can direct the church quite nicely. So is there a box? I guess that depends on each one of us. “Thinking outside the box” will continue to mean thinking in ways outside of the mainstream. But whatever that box of boxes looks like is largely determined by your world view, your past experiences, and probably even your current realities. What a shame if we allow those things to dictate our faith expectations of an all powerful, incredibly loving, and truly amazing God.