The congregation I serve is using The Story to work through the biblical narrative in the next year. We have read the first few weeks now, all material from Genesis. For people not deeply familiar with scripture, it has been eye opening – God is much more experimental than they thought!
People are discovering that Eden was made after Adam, God tries things that don’t work, God repents of things God does, and that God seems less “in charge” than they often had assumed. Human agency is taken seriously in the Bible. God’s efforts don’t always turn out the way God wants in the Bible. So, people seem more impactful than many had thought. And God seems less omnipotent than people often assumed.
What is clear in this is that the route from here to there in the Bible is at least a bumpy one and often one with many curves and even detours. God tries things and let’s people try things. While the journey’s destination may be somewhat clear, the way(s) to get there are numerous. The God we meet in scripture is flexible and even experimental.
This is an essential understanding of God if we are to become the kind of church God wants us to be. If God is experimental, tries things that don’t turn out right the first time, repents of things that God decides went astray, etc. – then shouldn’t the church, which is the body of Christ in the world (and therefore is to look as much like God as possible), also be experimental, try things that don’t work, repent of things we do that don’t go well, etc.?
Scripture lays out a picture of a God who is committed to fulfilling the reign of God. But it also tells the story of the journey so far. We are on the way but the route ahead will include bumps, detours, and roadblocks along the way. Like the God we see in scripture, the church will need to experiment, be resilient, repent for our shortcomings, and not give up just because things aren’t always easy.
As a leader, how well are you doing at helping people be imaginative about options, willing to experiment and try things that include risks, and to repent of mistakes without being discouraged in ways that bring things to a screeching halt? The Bible bears witness to a God who works in committed but messy ways. Church renewal in our time will be messy, but places that are led by people who are excited by and engage the mess will be the ones that discover the kind of new life that the Bible lifts up.