Permeable Walls

Permeable Walls April 9, 2005

I’ve been left wandering in my thoughts in my commute of late with a challenge to reach our world and our local communities more effectively. And my thoughts have considered at times how it was that Jesus drew so many to the kingdom. Here’s my conclusion: Jesus had the ability and willingness to establish permeable walls between himself and his world.

John the Baptist, by calling people to get purified in the water of the Jordan, and Jesus, by calling people to the table as the “place of grace,” were in effect saying the “Temple is not getting the job done as it ought.” Too many are left out, and the priestly establishment needs to hear it.

To establish a new “place of grace,” Jesus chose the table, but not just any table. He chose the regular ol’ dinner table in homes in Galilee. Consider the pictures we’ve seen of St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel and then think of just a regular house in Roma and its dinner table. Now you see what he was doing. Jesus democratized the “place of grace,” and called people to come to him.

In so doing, he let people get as close to him as they wanted: they could walk with him daily; they could sit at the table with him daily; they could stand at the back of the room for awhile, until they chose to sit or walk; they could stand at the door and listen in on the conversation; or they could stick their heads through the window to take it all in. Or, they could even just ask others who had been there. No forcing here; just come as you are and as you wish.

This created a permeable wall between him, the kingdom, and the world.

Do churches today have permeable walls? Is it not the case that “strangers” who come to our “churches” know in fact they are strangers. Is it because, and I think it is, we have “impermeable” walls, tall walls, thick walls. Could we perhaps reconsider once again how to reach our community, and think instead of how we can create permeable walls between ourselves and our community?

I welcome your thoughts.

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  • I commented on this over at vanguardchurch, but I thought I’d repeat it here:Maybe emergent folks would say that the problem is that the windows and doorways that were created by the Reformation to let the gospel through to the people have, over time, morphed into impermeable walls, for they no longer work as they once did–mostly because the environment (our changing culture) has been so caustic to them, but also because the church has not tried to upgrade to windows and doors that would be up-to-date with the environment.

  • Precisely, Bob. And the Emergent folk are trying to reach the new generation by creating less impenetrable walls so the gospel can be heard — and seen.

  • So, the question is,Why do some evangelicals, especially those who have invested so much of their Christian life in the doors and windows opened up by the Reformation, so AGAINST the Emergent movement?See my recent post, Conversant with Carson on Emergent

  • I will very shortly be respond to DA Carson’s ideas on my website, so let me wait on this one. Emergent is nearly impossible to define, and for that reason alone it is hard to disagree with, so most disagreements are missing the target.Emergent’s concern to “redefine” the gospel is fundamentally important to do for each generation, as long as it remains true to the Bible and to the Orthodox faith. But, Bob, that missional emphasis is right on: until the gospel is defined as something concerned with mission, it can’t be right and true to the Bible.I’m writing A Weekend called Grace to do just that. Can I send you some chapters? It is not done, but it is getting close now.

  • I’d be honored.I’ll send you my address via e-mail.

  • Or if you want to send it via e-mail, I guess you’ve got that!