God is speech… …yet God is silenced by the silencing of the lambs.

That is the topic of this blog, but it’ll take me a few moments to get there.

I’m a slow learner. Having been at this blogging for a few months now on several different sites, I’m realising that its really hard to write a cogent series. My Drafts box is full of stuff waiting in line to get posted according to a logic of orderly publication. It finally dawned on me why there are all those tools that form clouds and link themes and bunch by index – you can actually post in any old order and let the reader find stuff with the tools.

So I’m not going to publish in order any more – at least not hold myself to that discipline. I’m going to follow the energy and post stuff, and lets the chips fall. As a friend of mine would say “whoo hoo!” This particular post belongs in what will be a big set of posts eventually – a series around the theme of “Unsilencing the lambs”. The stuff I will post has a long history – and that’s ok, because the debate hasn’t moved far

In this series I argue that the body of Christ is dreadfully and chronically sub-optimised by the failure to enable every believer to speak of and about their faith.

In a lead article/sermon in "The Alternative" newspaper (Autumn 2000), Derek Brown wrote: "A pastor friend of mine put it this way: "The church is out there" While most of us would intuitively agree with this viewpoint the reality remains for many Christians the world is an intimidating place and one we are not sure how to relate to” (footnote). My hearts desire is to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ to find the sheer pleasure of being able to connect their own minds with their own hearts by giving voice to their experience of Jesus as it relates to all their life – their everyday life, their world of Monday to Saturday. This may “simply” be with one another, or with anyone they encounter who will listen to the good news about Jesus.

I toyed with the idea of some catchy slogan like “connecting minds to mouths”, because I really do think it is a matter of literally breaking the silence by talking. But that is too glib for the challenge that faces us. The opposite to silencing is not blabbing. It is having a deep connection to my insides, to feel and know the movements and longings of my own heart, to be safe enough to give those voice, and to do that often enough to be fluent at it. This is not the same as being a public speaker. For some the times they actually speak may be rare, because they are reflective types, living on the edge of conversations. But my longing is that they are no less able to speak out of their hearts experience , out of their articulated – and therefore articulate – connections to Jesus and everyday life.

God is speech… …yet God is silenced by the silencing of the lambs.

God is silenced because his people are silenced. He wants his word to go out and be powerful to bless and curse, but it is muted. A distinctive of Christianity is lost. It is supposed to be the idols that are dumb, but in a travesty, the Christians are dumb and the idols speak

I argue that this tragedy has its roots in our western culture, and has been exacerbated by the unholy alliance between evangelicalism and scientific rationalism. But it has become so much one with our christian, churched culture, that we need to just see and acknowledge how central it is to the way we behave, without even bothering with all the complications and over-layers of roots or shoots

Mine is not a belligerent agenda. I have no desire to be “anti-church” I am weighed down by sadness at the experience of gathering many believers are stuck with, and desire to make it different. To observe that certain ways of being together as christians seem unhelpful in achieving our stated desires, is not the same as “hacking on the church” No belligerence is not the same as no energy, or no emotion. I aim to share the passions of Jesus and Paul when they spoke the lifesaving words of truth.

I have no intention of getting stuck on any particular argument so it shifts the conversation (footnote).

SO here is the mission for these posts

b I want to share with you a message I have burning within me[i]. I believe that because of the culture we live in, and the way the church has adopted that culture, the people of God have become unable to speak about their relationship to Jesus in a way they will long to do if they are his children. I want change to come – and believe it will best come through the assemblies of God’s people

b The real tragedy of the silencing of the lambs is not the diabolical (see fn) entrapping sociology of the church, but the abject emptiness of believers faced with the trials of life.


Footnote to Derek Brown quote

Derek’s piece went on to say:

For this to change we need to realign ourselves first theologically and secondly pragmatically. Theological realignment: One of the reasons we are intimidated about the world is that we may not be convinced that God is in control of what happens in the world…." (Here follows exegesis of the parable of the sower and Matt 28:18) Pragmatic realignment: (Here follows an exhortation to Kingdom work in the world, e.g. ) "Churches would need to reexamine their priorities to ensure their programs and activities gave expression to significant community focus"

My contention is that Derek’s observation of the symptoms is 100% accurate. But his solutions are like too many others offered today, and while they are true, they profoundly miss the mark he seeks.

Footnote on “shifting the conversation”

As will become clear in future posts, getting stuck in adversarial point versus point arguments is one of the fundamental tactics that keep us silenced. I would not even get to say what I am seeing before the conversation would sidetrack into any of a number of well-worn paths, traversed so often that our cart would grind to a halt, its wheels trapped in deep ruts.

The point of any point is to help people see in new ways, and make new choices – not to argue the point. Therefore at times I will choose to remain allusive rather than rigorous – to open up contexts for discussion, rather than close them down. This is also a model for breaking silence – the boldness to begin to say, but not to end all saying – to open up a new space without knowing where its ends are. (We tend to think this is somehow wrong – that “withholding” is a morally questionable act. On the contrary, it is the way God has opened up progressive conversations, not told us the endgame (at least not for the whole era from Moses to Malachi)!

Footnote to the word “diabolical”.

I wrote that harsh word perhaps 10 years ago – as I said this series has deep roots in my life. And as I re-read it I heard its harshness, and hesitated – long enough to write this footnote. I leave the word stand. Why? Because it stands true. Take just yesterday. I am going through some particular trials at the moment that cast a doubt over my income, and therefore mortgage and therefore……whatever. I was speaking to a colleaguye at work, and she asked permission to speak of some learning she had done in her life with Jesus – and of course I welcomed her input. What she said completely shifted my heart, my fears, and my approach to today. But in the course of telling that story she told me why she had studied law. Because her parents went in good faitha s missionaries to an African nation, and came back 7 years later, penniless, spent, and besmirched – trashed not by the work, but by the missionary (church, assembly of gods people) community they were located in. And she spoke of her own recent experience of being the truth-telling voice into a dysfunctional church community (it had scored only 3% (!!!) on one of the metrics used by the National Church Life Survey community health diagnostics) – for her trouble she was pilloried and removed. Her only passing comment on that experience, which was a story on the way around to a different comment, was that “If you haven’t had an experience like that you haven’t been in church long enough.” Ha ha ha. Who’s laughing? The enemy. Diabolical.

Yet again I say that is not the real tragedy. My friend did that willingly, I have done such things, and hundreds of thousands of christains put their faith and hope at risk on a daily basis attemting to make church a better place, and would continue to do so. The real tragedy of the silencing of the lambs is the abject emptiness of believers faced with the trials of life.