Thursday, October 12, 2006

whew! i'm glad that simile metaphor is still holding sway!

over lunch, i read a brief article on christianitytoday.com entitled what's next: evangelism. this article is a brief compendium of leading evangelical's thoughts on the primacy of evangelism in the church's mission. the article was pretty bland, insofar as it focused on fairly typical evangelical banging about the great commission, but what really caught me off-guard was the concluding statement that i have posted below.

"Summing up, international evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said, 'The church of Jesus Christ is not a pleasure boat, but a lifeboat for saving souls. And every hand is needed on deck. How do we launch lifeboats and how do we get all hands on deck? There is no other agenda. It's harvest time, and woe if we do not harvest.'"

i think this metaphor provides a completely reductionistic and wholly inadequate view of the church and her mission. thus, i would like for us to develop an alternate analogy or description of the church that would be more helpful. any ideas?

10 comments:

g13 said...

as silly as this issue of analogies might seem, i think they are incredibly important insofar as they concisely communicate what we think about the church and her mission in the world. thus, instead of imaging (is that a word? i dunno. guess i could say imagining, but imaging sounds better) the church as a product of powerful industrialization that's purpose is simply to rescue individual people from death, i think we need analogies, similes and metaphors that reflect postmodern culture.

my hunch is that a computer analogy would work well. couldn't we speak of the church as a creational network that connects every thing to one another and is also directly linked to the seminal server? i don't know if such an analogy would fully capture the ever expanding nature of the Kingdom of God, but it's a start.

i think that erwin mcmanus images and talks about the church as a barbarian horde. i should read his book the barbarian way before saying anything more about his conception, but my hunch is that it has merits.

i also toyed around with the idea of the church as a virus which not only infiltrates individual bodies but entire communities of people. but somehow that image seems to negative insofar as a lot of viruses kill people and the term has already been whored out by marketers

cade said...

i hate to be THAT guy (but i AM that guy) but wouldn't this be a metaphor? i thought a simile claus included the term "like." as in: "the church is LIKE a lifeboat." maybe i'm just being a jerk.

either way, the analogy sucks.

g13 said...

shit. i posted this quickly but could have sworn there was a like or as in there.

anyway, point noted!

james said...

I think it odd that those who laboriously strive to fulfill the Great Commission so rigidly, are the ones who seem to miss that Christ commanded us to make disciples, not merely converts.

If it were up to me, I might rework the closing paragraph to read:

The church of Jesus Christ is not merely a lifeboat for saving souls, but a way of life which bears witness to the Lord's redemption throughout all aspects of our time here on earth. Every hand is needed to play their part. Let us continue to plant and water the seeds and see where God makes things grow.

g13 said...

i like your response james. it is an organic metaphor the focuses on the interaction of man and nature and highlights the miracle of growth. this is almost a complete contrast from the battleship metaphor which implicitly suggests: a reliance on technology, nature is an adversary, salvation as a result not of the miraculous workings of divinity but of the strong backed and strong armed occupants of the life boat, etc.

interestingly enough the guy who led the evangecube conference i was duped into attending a couple of weeks ago used this exact contrast - is the church a battleship or a cruise boat? - as a way of illustrating the impetus of evangelism.

Mike said...

here is the thing. if the current metaphor/simile is reductionist (which it is) how are we doing any good by creating our own "post-modern" metaphor/simile so in a generation or more folks will view our metaphor/simile as reductionist and have to create their own?

i don't think the problem is that the metaphor isn't postmodern, i think the problem is that we keep trying to come up with metaphors/similes.

it strikes me that when ever i encounter something good and true and beautiful and full of life it resists being reduced to metaphor/simile and the very act of creating a metaphor/simile to describe it destroys, emaciates, or changes the thing we seek to describe.

g13 said...

point taken. metaphors and similes are reductions that are used to facilitate communication. the fact that Jesus used such literary devices to speak of the Kingdom of God suggests that we should not fear doing likewise, however, as you suggest, we should be reticent to put to much weight on such reductionistic constructions.

Mike said...

so if that is the case, that jesus used metaphor/simile, then why not use his metaphors?

the thing is he used several similes to describe the kingdom.

so maybe the boat/life raft metaphor isn't wrong so much we need to add other metaphor/simile to it to finish the story.

like when jesus said the kingdom is like and then lists multiple things depending on where and who he was speaking to.

g13 said...

i have no problem using jesus' metaphors and lean towards similes and metaphors that describe the Kingdom in organic ways - which remind me of Jesus comparison of the Kingdom to seed, leaven, etc.

i also don't think that the battleship/life raft metaphor is "wrong," i just think it emphasizes an individualistic perspective on gospel ministry that i would rather shy away from.

in the end, i suspect that our descriptions of the Kingdom, literary or otherwise, probably tell us more about ourselves than they do about the Kingdom itself.

Mike said...

word