This morning I began reading Calvin Miller’s little book O Shepherd Where Art Thou? A short book, but it is already causing me to think. Miller reminds all of us of the importance of pastoral care within a church. As I read the book, I also thought about John Frye’s series "The Joy of Mini-Church" (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). John has a way of speaking of some of the qualities of "Mini-Church" that are really a part of what it means to be a church.
I have been thinking lately about how much time and energy goes into maintaining a church that may have little if anything to do with that church’s mission or purpose. In fact, one can become so engrossed in such maintenance matters that he or she begins to think that these are things that really matter. Perhaps you have seen someone like this who works for a particular corporation. His friends and family might say, "His whole world is the XYZ company." As a result, the person really has no life.
What is madness?
I love some of the observations that Edwin Friedman has made about "madness." In A Failure of Nerve, Friedman writes:
Madness cannot be judged from other people’s ideas or their values but rather from:
1. The extent to which they interfere in other people’s relationships (as in people who do not go directly to the person with whom they have an issue). (Instead, they want others to talk with that person. Or, they might "triangle" another person so that person’s relationship is now affected with the "problem person.")
2. The degree to which they constantly try to will others to change (as in people who are convinced they know best and are relentless in their desire to see things go their way).
3. Their inability to continue a relationship with people who disagree with them (as in people who see anyone who questions them, disagrees with them, etc. as "the enemy"). (Consequently, the person might speak poorly of that person at most every opportunity because, after all, "she is not with me.")
In other words, madness is not just practicing trivial pursuit in the life of the church. Madness is not just burning up the time and energy of its members with maintenance issues that have little or nothing to do with the mission and purpose of that church. Madness can describe how we relate to one another.
Let me suggest that it is very important that you and I are not perpetuating "madness" in our families and churches by the way we function. I want to function in my family and in our church in a way that reflects Christ (not self-will) and in a way that promotes maturity (instead of perpetuating or rewarding immaturity).
Does any of this speak to you? Can you think of other examples of madness (as reflected in family systems or church systems) besides those mentioned by Friedman?