Monday, July 16, 2007

A parable of and by the emerging church

If the people who built the railroads in the united states were actually interested in transporting people, they would now own the airlines. But they don't! The industrial historians tell us that the reason for this is that once the railroad companies had completed the huge task of driving the lines across the US, they lost their focus. Instead of continuing to pioneer ways of allowing free movement of people, they lost sight of the key end and focused internally on the one means to that end that they had made.

For a century or so, this was no problem because the rail road was still the best way to get around, but with the advent of the airlines the railroad companies were overtaken by a mode of transportation that was massively better. And their customers flocked to it.

Or at least most of them did. There were still a few old romantics who just loved the railroad and who continued to dress up in their finery, climb aboard, and drift along gently, talking to each other about how the railroad was the PROPER way to travel. About haw much better it was than this fancy airline stuff. They assured each other everything was going to be just fine, while the planes full of people shot by overhead.

New wine is currently being waisted by ruptured wine skins. And it outrageous to ask the workers to keep pressing the grapes when the vineyard keeps pouring it into old old skins, allowing them to rupture and spill the newness into the drains.

NOTE: This is a widely circulated parable among the emerging church movement. As far as I can tell it's author is unknown. I have heard it told several times, sometimes on podcasts sometimes in person. It has even been included in the forward to at least one book. But each time the storyteller explains they heard it from someone else... I believe this a mark of the emerging church, that we share stories and ideas freely. The ultimate goal is the healing of our world through the expansion of "The Kingdom of God."


Anonymous said...

Hey Tom! I'm recovering from the bookstore, but I'll be in again sometime.

I have two reactions to this story. First, yeah, I totally agree with the idea that we can become tied to our traditions and methods, even when they lose relevance. On the other hand, other countries have some pretty amazing high-speed rail systems that are heavily used. So we should be cautious to throw something out before discovering whether it may have use in a new or better way. Part of the emerging thing is rediscovering the beauty of ancient Christian practices. Maybe we don't need to go so far back to find beautiful, useful traditions and practices.

Tom Batterson said...

Thanks Kev, I'll try not to over load you with to many suggestions next time you come in to my store.
I agree with many of the things you wrote, however as Ed Setzer points out in hi book (there I go again) when told by a doctor that they must change theri habbits (eating, drinking, smoning ect) or die, most people are unable to change and so choose death. In a socity where we seem to champion our individual lives and fear death so much, how much more will most people be unwilling to change their siprtual pratices not having the consequence of physical death looming over them. But change we must because we see spirtual death all arround us...
Now I'm not advocating change for changes sake (thats stupid). But so many of our rituals and pratices are so enmeshed with modern thought that at times they can distort the gospel. Which often leads to christians make signs and go out to protest what they see as the inmorrality of our culture. More to come on this subject...