My wife and I have been on a twenty year journey of church planting; that is to say a twenty year journey of deconstruction. It started, as these things often do, with a dissatisfaction with the status quo. It became apparent that, along with Bono and the boys, we still hadn’t found what we were looking for.
Initially our inexperience lead us to employ demolition tactics in our eagerness to make changes. We soon learned, however, that our response needed to be more subtle; a little more grown up. Those of a more theologically conservative disposition see deconstruction as a negative idea; often feeling threatened by any notion that comes close to questioning the basics of their faith.
In our engagements, we have often been treated to responses that are versions of ‘we shouldn’t question God – He is sovereign’ as if that would satisfy our curiosity and silence us. This stance seems odd given that the very nature of an incarnational faith is death and rebirth as the gospel is fleshed out in every new generation; a kind of deconstruction and reconstruction. As previously noted, however, there is a significant difference between demolition and deconstruction.
Our local town had a new road built around it several years ago in order to reduce the flow of traffic through it’s historic central streets. Houses were demolished, canal systems were re-routed, farm land was built upon in order to complete the project. Demolition meant that there was no longer any trace of what had been there previously. It is a permeant change without any reference to the past. The old is dismissed as having no or little value.
Deconstruction is a different activity altogether. This exercise involves assigning to all of the materials and components of the construct a correct value and meaning. For sure some of the components will be identified as not having a current significance and duly laid aside but they will still be treated as having had value. So what might the marks of deconstruction be over and above that of demolition.
1. Deconstruction is about dealing with the component parts of our faith/Ecclesiology.
Demolition deals with the removal of the building as a whole. Perhaps this reveals the fear by conservatives.
2. Deconstruction is the beginning of incarnation.
In order to be reshaped in the image of others we need to first allow for the removal of our existing points of security. This is indeed a risk because we must trust that God will meet us in the process. Lesslie Newbigin talks of leaving the hill of the cross to journey towards the stranger. In doing so we risk that they may hold the truth and trust that the God of the universe will be with us in the mission.
Faith is not professing that our beliefs are right at all costs. Faith is bringing our lives into contact with others trusting the Holy Spirit to hold our beliefs.
3. Deconstruction allows every generation to be involved in shaping the church and it’s mission.
It seems to me that often the voices of the dead carry more weight than the words of the living. Witness the wholesale dismissal of Rob Bell over his declaration that Love Wins by some of the very people who feel at ease quoting CS Lewis. I am not suggesting that our predecessors should be ignored but that they should not be so revered that they cannot be questioned.
Our own journey lead us to embrace the twin motif of Rooted-Openness. We have spent time looking for that in which we can confidently put down roots. At the same we have tried to build an environment of openness so that we might love, and learn from, those who see the world in a different way from us. In this context deconstruction always starts at a personal level before affecting our theology, ecclesiology, or missiology.
It is time for incarnation. Let the deconstruction begin……