Plodding Visionaries

So, I read a blog post last week that has challenged me all weekend as I’ve reflected back on it. I rarely quote this much of someone’s blog post but I couldn’t do it justice any other way. The following post was written by Keven DeYoung on the Ligonier Ministries blog. Do yourself a favor and read the post in it’s entirety.

I’m quite confident many of you won’t agree with the entire thing but man did he challenge me. There are times I get so frustrated with the church that I just want to scream and walk away. Generally it’s because I see something in her that reminds me of something glaringly obvious in my own life.  Trying to consistently lead a church to be everything God has called her to be is the biggest challenge of my life. So thankful for all the “plodders” God has put around me. Don’t know where I would be without you!!

It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.
My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without followthrough. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono — Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church. As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works — like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

I think this will be a fun one to discuss. Thoughts?

66 Responses to “Plodding Visionaries”

  1. katdish says:

    Holy cow! Spot on. “prone to radicalism without follow through”–I see this way too much.

  2. David says:

    “We haven’t learned to be ordinary.”

    Yep. And largely the message preached in churches feeds into this too.

    To take it back to Bible times, (we think) we want to be the travellers of the Acts church – seeing multitudes added daily, etc. But after the initial rush of the new, continuing to be Jesus to the community once His faithful disciples have passed through to the next community is where our faith is really tested.

    The letters back to the early churches & leaders show that continuing faithfulness in the ordinary was a much a problem then as it is now…

    And I’m as guilty as anyone.

  3. Joel Mayward says:

    I understand Kevin’s critique of the lack of follow-through, but I’m quite thankful that many of the first disciples decided to NOT live ordinary lives. How different our world would be if Peter decided to be a faithful fisherman instead of a faithful fisher of men. Can’t we both live radical, counter-cultural, kingdom-minded lifestyles and embrace the long haul of being committed to the church?

    • Pete Wilson says:

      I like the way you’re thinking Joel. I do think it’s possible.

    • Cheryl Floyd says:

      God does take ordinary people to do extraordinary things. But God also takes extraordinary people to do ordinary things. Being the most like Jesus is when we give up a need to operate in our extraordinariness to “plod” the road less traveled by, to limit ourselves in a show of faithful submission to do the miniscule and mundane – just, like, Jesus.

    • Ian says:

      I’m kinda young but I think that it’s when we do the orinary things, by going to church and such, that’s when we do the learning and we need to take what we learn there and apply it to the way we live in the work force, at school, and everywhere we go. And by doing that, we are being radical.

  4. dan says:

    This is one of the most challenging things i’ve read in a long time, & I think Keven nailed it. I’m a huge U2 fan & I appreciate the fact that Bono doesn’t just use his celebrity status in self-serving manners, but I think Keven’s got it right. We see Bono & Chris Martin supporting these global initiatives to end poverty & think we should do the same.

    I think “We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice…” sums up our generation. We’ve seen what others seem to have done so easily want a slightly different result for ourselves. Learning to be ordinary is the key. I read a quote from Bono (of all people) years ago that said “Don’t ask God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved with what he’s already blessed.” Now, even though I don’t agree with that entire statement, but there is a bit of truth there…we don’t always need to start something new. Sometimes all we need to do change the world is not be a revolutionary & partner with what someone else is doing.

  5. Lori says:

    Oh Amen I agree. Unfortunately we have to many “best seller” books in the Christian arena to tell us differently. We are to busy seeking out our “best life” to focus on just being part of the body.

    Love this post.

  6. Sally says:

    This is awesome and so right on. And I wouldn’t have understood it UNTIL I had the husband, kids, mortgage, routine, etc. It’s like how I feel about my husband. When we first got married, my love was very wide, but not very deep. Now after 21 years of marriage, we have some serious depth going on, but from the surface, it looks the same as our wedding day. The casual observer can look at the surface and have no idea of the good, bad, and the ugly that’s below.

    I’ve thought A LOT about what this blog post discusses–especially when I’m doing laundry, the dishes while my kids are running around like savages, etc–thinking ‘is THIS what it’s all about??’. When I became a Christian, I thought I was in a grand scheme of world-changing explosive spirituality. But as I’ve lived, it’s the quiet, mundane moments where God does the most transformation.

    We’re the ones who like the big-budget pyrotechnics. God is the one who whispers in the tumult.

    Doesn’t mean I have to like it (LOL), but that how he most often works–at least in my life.

  7. Ernie Moss says:

    I must confess I don’t know Keven but from reading the blog you posted I presume from his preamble he is of the younger generation. I attend a strategic partner Church in Birmingham, AL of Northpoint Church (Andy Stanley)and while our mission simplified is to bring people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ we attempt to reach two groups of people one being the unchurched and the second being those that are churched but have become disenchanted with the Church. In this second category we have learned there are people of many ages albeit more in the ages of 20-30 that are disengaged themselves from a Church and therefore lost their closemess with Jesus Christ not because of lack of belief but because of being so tired of the institution of Church per se, the rules, doctrines, dress, etc. So candidly I think Keven is on target to the extent that there must be Church in the sense that people gather together to worship and praise God, the forum and how it is done may be in question.

  8. Aaron Reddin says:

    I’m gonna have to leave this one alone Pete! :)

  9. Cheryl Floyd says:

    YES! Awesome! Hurts so good. I love this post.

  10. JamesBrett says:

    those are some good words. i especially like that deyoung touches on a need for us to hold “tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory,” and to do so with consistency.

    we know entirely too much about the bible and about how we could help others for us to be so disobedient to God’s wishes. it especially irks me when our solution, we say, is to leave the church so we can be more spiritual. don’t leave the church; give money to a beggar or mow your widow neighbor’s yard.

    plodding. consistency in obedience. i like that… a lot.

  11. I disagree in the sense that I think the church is most powerful when its not working through programs and structures. Its far better raw, organic and spontaneous – none of which describes Sunday mornings in my opinion

  12. gitz says:

    As I read through this I kept thinking that the biggest problem is that we keep referring to what WE want. If we want to be ordinary or if we want to be the trailblazers. What is so often missing is our being intentional about getting what we want for ourselves out of the way of what God needs from us.

    Many who were trailblazers in the bible would have rather been ordinary, and vice versa. I am constantly praying that if God has a plan for me, I don’t miss it. I’m afraid of how often we miss His agenda when planning ours, even if it is well-intended for the church.

  13. Mark Parsons says:

    This is awesome…I think this is what so many people are thinking/feeling, but it wasn’t until this post that it had been articulated so well for me personally. It’s counter-cultural to be a steady, constant, maturing person in today’s society. It seems as though we are supposed to be “rock-star _______” at whatever we do, and that we are to attain that status so quickly. I have to continually remind myself that I’m not supposed to be all these other things that are “cool”…I can only try to be who God intended me to be.

  14. patricia says:

    “Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.”

    amen.

  15. Joyce says:

    Yesterday a missionary to Slovenia gave a wonderful message at our church…he spoke on Luke chapter 10 and the ’72 others’ sent on ahead of Jesus into the towns etc. One of the points he made was that we don’t know who these 72 were. We know quite a bit about the 12 apostles but nothing about this group. I think it’s likely they were not the ‘rock stars’ of their day but they were obedient to do what He instructed them to do and they returned ‘filled with joy’.

    In my experience it is often the plodders who give legs to the revolutionaries ideas and they are the ones who follow thru and put the great ideas in to action.

  16. Kevin says, “The invisible church is for invisible Christians.”

    I have met many who claim to reject the “institutional church” in favor of something less “organized”. I have observed that many who take this road eventually end up not only far from the church, but also far from Christ.

    I like his quote from Stott, The Lord “didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church”

  17. Julie says:

    After reading the blog post I was struck by how Deyoung doesn’t seem to think that God may call some to work from outside of the brick and mortar building that people call church. I would challenge his statement that said “Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic.”
    I submit that the practice of attending a weekly service that follows a formula of song, prayer, welcome, song, song, prayer, offetory, special music, message, invitation, closing song isn’t necessarily biblical.
    My own personal walk with the Father has only grown stronger since walking away from the brick and mortar establishment. It wasn’t that way for me in the past. I have walked away from “church” in the past; the building, the people, God…
    This time I was searching through scriptures, searching through books, trying to find answers to things I have longed questioned but had no answers for. I am growing in my relationship, with the Father, with His people, with my personal friends, and family, even my marriage is better,(and for awhile there, I was just biding my time). But something within me changed. I am NOT saying that church is bad, I am not saying I never go. I attend regular bible studies, I visit churches so therefore, I believe I am within the will of God. People may feel like they are to be in church every time the doors are open but I don’t believe that’s scriptural. I think if a person goes twice on sunday, once on wednesday, womens meeting once a week, or mens prayer breakfast on Saturday, then if they go to a church that offers cell meetings… 4 days/nights out of 7 they are going to “church” or a church related function. They feel guilty if they miss…and from where I’m standing, that’s NOT from God… I am open to being wrong, what scriptures do you have that suggest otherwise?

    • Bill Renfrew says:

      Ann Rice would agree with you as would a lot of other people. For me personally, the church as an entity has never served as an obstacle that separated me from God. Guess I’ve been lucky. I can’t imagine how I could grow stronger in my relationship with God by leaving the church, but more importantly I can’t imagine watching my relationship with Christ diminish because I am going to church.

      There have been times when I have let PEOPLE at my church, and/or policies at my church that I didn’t agree with, become personal issues, and because of that I found that my relatinship with Christ was suffering. It became more about me being right. I still still fall in that trap much too often. But I’ve come to believe it’s not the churches fault when I do.

    • Julie, Hebrews 10:24:25 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.

      While I do agree that the basis for the way we do worship when we meet song, song, scripture, song, sermon… is not biblical neither is being there every time the doors are open. I do believe this scripture should lead us toward meeting together and encouraging each other on a regular basis. While going to different churches and reading books is very helpful in our lives, Church is not for us, it is for worshiping God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit first. Second it is for building relationships where we can encourage and serve other people.

      What we focus on when we go to a church is what we usually get. I focused on getting something for myself for many years and until I started to focus on Jesus that I actually liked going to church. I hope this helps a little. Take this as no more than one persons two cents.

  18. Caleb says:

    Very thought provoking, Pete. My wife and I completely agree with Keven.

    I thought I’d pass along a story:

    Someone had the brilliant idea of doing a Greek to Chinese New Testament concordance. Quite a daunting task, but a little old man in the church saw the value of the project and decided to take it on. Besides taking a classic Greek course in his earlier years, he didn’t have many of the skills required. So he taught himself and got up to speed. Then, he worked on the concordance. He worked for about 10 hours a day, six days a week for 2 years until the project was complete.

    Shortly after he was asked to do the Old Testament. He had to learn Hebrew. Anyone who’s taken Hebrew knows how much work this is. He worked for about 8 hours a day, six days a week for 3 years until the OT concordance was complete. He finished shortly before his 85th birthday.

    This unknown plodder who had and has the discipline to stay the course. A plodder who, in many ways, I strive to be like. A plodder who is my dad.

  19. Chase says:

    Its a great article but theres a fine balance to it all. We can argue til the cows come home about whats needed is to be straight, faceless and habitual.

    We can also flip the coin and argue the inverse of not being stagnant, reaching out, going against the lifeless flow.

    If so much is bothering people of those who are “rubbing against the grain” maybe thats a cry for help in some cases and a shakeup in others?

    God is a God of order, no doubt, but he is not mindless or arrogant. Theres times to be gathered in the upper room in one accord and times to put the man thru the roof to touch the heart of God.

  20. Tad says:

    Here is the problem… We are often only drawn to the ‘glamor’ of serving. But the ‘Bono’s', of the world, who are doing extraordinary things do not believe their actions to be extraordinary. They do them because they believe it is the least that they can do. The problem is when we only want to do things if we believe the will “turn out” extraordinary. “I won’t teach in the nursery, but I don’t mind speaking to 10,000 people or being in the spotlight”. We only want the “fantastic”. That’s the author’s the point. So many of the people we see doing great things, are the ones who will tell you that they started out with the small and seemingly “insignificant” things.

    The apostles didn’t start by saying, “Let’s go be trailblazers”. They said, “Let’s go to the whole world and share the good news about Jesus”. And a trail was blazed. One step at a time, one small, minuscule, insignificant, non-glamorous, un-extraordinary step at a time.

  21. Leslie Garcia says:

    This was a good wake up call for all of us…I remember coming back to the Lord and having to work a graveyard shift as I tried to get my life back on track with Jesus at the wheel. I worked hard and quickly got promoted to be a group leader and took this training where after a week of sessions I learned one thing from this one man who said: “I’ve learned to follow Jesus’ example…a good leader is someone who does not stand at the front demanding everyone’s attention, but one who can multiply himself/herself in many others. A good leader is someone who is not seen in themselves but seen in others.” Nameless, faceless people…who live for an AWESOME God!

  22. MainlineMom says:

    This is why I love Kevin DeYoung so much. He speaks my heart. I definitely fall into the whole “wanting to change the world” camp. But I also have the job/marriage/mortgage/kids so I can’t go off on missions trips to Africa and I can’t travel the country speaking to groups of people. That’s part of why I blog :) I believe whole-heartedly in church membership and ordinary service to a brick and mortar church. But I also believe Jesus called us to live radically and love with abandon. I think we can certainly try to do both!

  23. larry says:

    Phil Snider’s book “Toward a Hopeful Future: Why the Emergent Church is Good News for Mainline Congregations.” really speaks to this debate. Read an excerpt here http://tinyurl.com/2343km4.
    Growth is painful and plodders are afraid of being left behind. Honestly, some proponents of the “new church paradigms” may want to leave the plodders behind. One of the great voices of the Emergent movement, Phyllis Tickle, talks a lot about how both groups need each other. The plodders need visionaries to keep Christianity from becoming stale and out of touch with the present age Christians are called to serve. The visionaries need the plodders to question them and remind them from whence they came. Much like breaks on a train, the plodders ensure progress in the church does not out run the teachings of Christ.

  24. Andrea-Elena says:

    Andrew Peterson seems to be thinking along similar lines, Pete:

    http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0002333.cfm

  25. Carrie says:

    When I was a college student, I wanted to change the world.

    Now that I’m a thirtysomething wife and mother, I realize that God has to change me first.

    The desire to be recognized, be acclaimed, be amazing for God, had to be ripped out and replaced with character qualities like humility, unselfishness, patience, and obedience. Now I serve God where I am, which for now and the forseeable future isn’t exciting or sexy.

    That’s OK. I’m serving, being used, and still being changed.

  26. Phillip Waite says:

    Ed Gungor’s new book “One Small Barking Dog: How to Live a Life That’s Hard to Ignore” addresses this very issue.

  27. Amy says:

    I admit, I have seen this in so many my age and the tendancy to reject the everyday “plodding” comes up in me as well. I work in a company where so many people have worked their entire adult lives–20, 30, 40+ years. I have thought, “wow. how sad.” But in reality I should say, “wow. that’s amazing. what strength to stay the course.”
    May this generation–me included–choose the steady pace instead of living at lightning fast speeds and missing the journey.

  28. Jenny says:

    “radicalism without followthrough”
    The scary thing – this is not just in the church, it is ALL over our corporations, organizations, groups, everywhere… How many more folks would have a relationship with Christ if we JUST followed through?

    “we haven’t learned to be ordinary”
    This is like a breath of fresh air to actually hear someone say.

    I love this post… and as you have done so many times Pete… you will probably mess up my week again with something you wrote/shared/blogged about {in a glorious, Jesus-breaking-in kind of way of course} :)

  29. Ron Swanson says:

    I really like the post. I get what Kevin is saying and appreciate him saying it.
    A good post gets me thinking about my own walk and what I’m teaching to the body here at TRF.
    I guess what kind of bugged me though was the word ‘plodding’:
    Slow and unexciting; (of a person) Thorough and hardworking but lacking in imagination or intelligence.
    That definition of church and the faithful people within doesn’t do justice to what God intended. But I get the point and am thankful for the faithful plodders!
    Just wrapped up last weeks teaching on the parable of the talents with: Until Jesus returns quit burying what God has given you, take risks, remain faithful, surrender to His cause, invest in what matters and do it over and over and over again. God’s response Matthew 25:21 & 23.
    Oh and I believe in and love (though sometimes I want yank my hair out) God’s messy, beautiful, dysfunctional, glorious, life changing, (insert your descriptive words here), body; the church!
    Thanks for passing this along Pete.

  30. I’m sorry…have to disagree. I agree with the need for routine and habit, but this just sounds like settling for a mediocre life and short changing God and ourselves out of a life that is fulfilling and exciting. It’s a thought provoking read, for sure and contains some great insight, but for me it feels hollow and lazy.

    • Bill Renfrew says:

      You’re right…it ‘sounds’ mediocre. A lot of it IS mediocre. Consider some of the tasks that are necessary in putting together a church service: scheduling people, coordinating volunteers, planning meetings, more planning meetings, preparing stuff, obtaining new stuff, fixing old stuff, making calls, cleaning, organizing, sending stuff to the printer, fixing a blown speaker, buying stamps, mailing 1200 letters, posting files on an FTP site, encouraging someone who’s overwhelmed, practicing songs, memorizing lines, editing a video, going over the message, painting something, building a riser, etc. etc. Not real glamorous stuff there, I agree. I have no doubt every person performing those jobs has at one time or another wondered if they’d settled for the mundane and mediocre.

      That is until Sunday morning when someone walks in off the street and accepts Christ.

      My question is what would have happened if all those plodders had decided to take the week off to start a revolution?

      • jason says:

        I went to a church one time that a preacher that discredited GODs WORD with GODs word.

        You had to have some real understanding to make it through that one.

        I pray that everyone did.

      • i think perhaps the term plodder and average is what gets my goat. All of those jobs are necessary, but they can be viewed through a revolutionary lens … they are part of the biggest God-breathed revolution the world has ever known, but it they approach it with the attitude of “oh woe is me” and looking like they just sucked a lemon, then it is not doing anyone any favours. Even these “ordinary” jobs are being done for the God of the Universe…an extraordinary God…we can do these “ordinary” jobs with extraordinary attention and care and spirit and passion…and they are jsut as revolutionary as someone who gets out and does the equally necessary “out there” revolutionary jobs. I think churches can tend to breed “safe” “comfortable” boring christianity. Jesus was anything but. He was not a plodder in any sense of the word.

  31. Jim Marr says:

    If plodding implies faithful, consistent, untiring, diligent, never give up, determination, long lasting, etc., then let’s plod along serving our Lord whether in the lime light or in the shadows!!

    Jim

  32. Julie says:

    Two things: I have been sick for a week and my ability to read at a computer is limited, so I am sorry if I’m repeating someone, but I thought this article http://ht.ly/2q96U kind of correlates. There is no need for hip and flash if it isn’t going to be real.

    Second, I am not a great plodder. I am a great starter, but I lack the follow through way too often. It reminded me of the parable of the soil. I’m a bit too rocky for my liking. I’m guessing the plodders are firmly rooted in good soil.

  33. Karen La Mar says:

    ok, i agree. but now what? How do we change the mindset of anyone let alone today’s young adults to plod when we live in a world of instant satisfaction? Today’s young adults don’t even know what it means to wait for food, wait for the tape to rewind to hear the song again, wait for a letter to arrive in the mail. This young adult generation does want change. I know several who want to make a difference. But, what I find is that they want it now and if it takes more then a week, either they decide its not worth it or give up thinking it will never happen. so now what?

  34. Patricia says:

    When he states that we have to be content with ordinary because that’s life ~ I’m not sure he’s happy ~ I mean the way he talks about it as being mundane and being satisfied with that blows me away. We are all looking for that something. The thing that grabs us and opens are hearts and minds. We need the Bonos, the Robinsons, the Wilsons, Churches, Caveys ~ We all gravitate to what brings us hope, encourages us and brings us to our knees. We are all on the same journey when it comes down to it.

  35. Kyle Gilbert says:

    Wow, this is so good. Thanks for sharing this, Pete!

  36. Rich Marshall says:

    I’m reminded of the Judge’s line in Caddyshack, “well, the world needs ditch diggers, too!”
    Maybe this line has stuck with me for 30 years because my longing for recognition is not a God thing it’s a “my” thing. This post and some recent services at our church have helped me to realize that my “calling/gifts” are not for up on the stage but more for behind the curtain.
    And recognition from God is what’s important and should be driving me.

  37. Bonnie Brochhausen says:

    I’ve read this article over and over numerous times. To be honest it frustrates me. Parts I agree with but other parts I’m not comfortable with.

    Does plodding = fathfulness, discipline, consistent, seeing a task thru? I never viewed plodding with those words. Plodding meant taking a walk with your boots full of mud, walking thru a trench, needlessly laborously, mindless… Just looked up the definition in case I was way off base, here’s some synonyms “grind, drudgery”.

    “Institutional religion” I do not equate with church. There’s nothing about institutional religion that excites me but the CHURCH is my passion. Christ is coming back for His bride not an institution. Our corporate worship experience should be a celebration of all that has happened in our communities all week long. That’s more in line with the New Testament church – groups of believers doing life together in community and those communities coming together to worship what all God had done in their lives. As one of my pastors used to always ask “who is the church?” and the answer is “I am the church!”

    “We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life.” Wow, what I’ve found to be ordinary and normal are people operating in the flesh, myself included! But if we live spirit-filled and spirit-led lives, there is nothing mundane or ordinary about our lives. In fact, it’s extraordinary, it’s not natural but supernatural. And often that is very noticeable.

    Jesus wasn’t anti-religion?? REALLY? The “institutional religion” of His day was the scribes, pharisees and the Judaizers.

    Yes, the New Testament knows nothing of a church-less Christianity! Authentic Christians should live in authentic community where accountability, growth, rebuke, encouragement, service, mission, ministry, and much more happen. These communities often gather with each other to do more of the same. They are an organism, growing and dynamic not an institution.

    It’s interesting this article was in a “Reformed tradition” magazine. I wonder what Calvin and Luther thought of the “institutional religion” of their day? I wonder if this article was written in 1510 instead of 2010 if Calvin and Luther would have the same reactions I’m having – “frustrating and depressed”.

  38. Brandon Cox says:

    Christ died for the church. He gave Himself for her, not for “a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.”

    The article is very thought-provoking, and while I’m all for challenging conventional thinking, I do sometimes grow weary of our attempts to offer a “new kind of church” that is different (we really mean better) than all the other churches around.

    Instead of being better, or revolutionary, why can’t we just say, “our story is a little different than some churches, and that’s okay,” then do our absolute best job we can.

  39. [...] in my work and with the vision that God has given me. Recently I was visiting one of these pastor’s blogs and he had this article posted. Actually, he borrowed this from another blogger that he follows and [...]

  40. Jacob says:

    DeYoung is solid. And he makes a very helpful point here. It’s helpful because if we expect life to be one spiritual high after another, we will be greatly disappointed. How many “spiritual highs” did Moses have according to the Bible? Maybe 15. Fifteen spiritual highs out of 120 years of living. Yes God sustains us, but like DeYoung points out, MOST of the Christian life is NOT a spiritual high.

  41. Ron Thomas says:

    Disclaimer: I am a 52 year old vocational ministry plodder.

    I have been a plodder for about 25 years now. I was never “radical” or cutting edge. I have tried to serve my Lord faithfully and consistently (some folks would find that thought radical).

    Looking at the comments, I believe I might be the only one from my generation to respond (I am a late Boomer). First, thank you Pete & Keven, for an acknowledgement that we plodders are a part of God’s plan. Also, thanks to many younger than myself who challenge me to think and examine what I do.

    Honestly, I have sometimes felt inadequate after reading some posts. Maybe I’m not revolutionary, but I plan to keep putting one (spiritual) foot in front of the other as long as God allows. I guess that makes me a plodder. And thanks to this post, I can hold my head a little higher.

  42. As a long-term missionary serving in Puerto Montt, Chile, I’ve had my ideas about church turned upside down. I just returned from a neighborhood Bible study where I meet with three Catholics and a Korean Christian. We read the Word together, discuss it, pray, and laugh hard. I also row competitively as a way to be a part of youth’s lives. We meet together each week, read the Word, discuss it, pray, and laugh hard. Throughout the week we are visiting people and hosting. When Sunday comes around sometimes we attend a local fellowship, but more often than not we do something fun together as a family. We feel as though we’ve been the church all week long, including being ministered to by our Chilean brothers and sisters, that going to a church on Sunday seems supercilious.

    I agree with the writer, that our generation is easily dissatisfied with the current church structure, yet lacks follow-through to change things for the better. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t leading us to look at church in a new way (or rather, a very old way). Whether we meet in homes, restaurants, or actual church buildings, I feel that God’s heart is that each believer is integral…we can be part of a church AND be the church…and it doesn’t have to be a committee or a clearly defined role within the body. It can be rowing. It can be at our work. Being ready to hear that still small voice. Being expectant for it. Not leaving it to the “holy men” to do the “holy work”. When we fully grasp the “priesthood of all believers” we will be able to move without question of structure, method, etc, for we will be led by His hand.

  43. Ralph Maylott says:

    Being a middle-of-the-roader, it appears to me that the church needs the plodders AND the revolutionaries. Keven sets up a straw man – that the revolutionaries want to do without church altogether. He also lumps all the revolutionaries together in wanting to do without a church. Last, he is saying that revolutionaries are not content to be nameless cogs.
    I am 55 and am interested in alternatives to the institutional church. I don’t consider myself immature or young. I am content to be an anonymous worker for the kingdom.
    There IS a significant undercurrent of dissatisfaction with mainstream church denominations. There is also a dissatisfaction with putting significant resources into a building and programs. Those revolutionaries are exploring ways to bring (or keep) those who are discontent with that mainstream into the body of Christ. They are looking for ways to involve Christ-followers in direct ministry with the widows and orphans of the world. They are only doing so in a way that is not traditional. Not all revolutionaries want to do without a church. Not all revolutionaries want to be famous. Many want to do church in a different way, a way that speaks to those not attracted to the traditional.

    Those who are within the mainstream find ways to justify the methods and existence of the mainstream. Those who find that they don’t fit the mainstream find a way to point out the deficiencies in the mainstream.
    Both are working for the kingdom.

  44. James McLaren says:

    Plodding visionaries, eh?

    I live in Jersey (not New Jersey, the little island in the English Channel after which NJ was named), and I’m currently writing for a local-area wiki (google Jerripedia to see it).

    One of the people I’ve been studying lately was a man called Philip Le Feuvre. He was a farmer’s son who left school at 13, but managed (against the odds) to get into the States, our local parliament.

    Philip had a vision. In those days there was no social welfare at all: when people got old, or sick, they had to go cap in hand to the local “constable” (read town mayor) for help. Philip thought this was wrong: in the UK, and in large parts of the rest of Europe, people paid into a fund which gave them automatic protection, and he felt Jersey should do the same.

    It took him fourteen years to get that vision through the States (admittedly, for five of those years we were occupied by Nazi Germany and such plans had to take a back seat). Even after the Bill went through the states, members tried to wreck it or defer it. But the plodding visionary got there in the end. It cost him: the press abused him, people threw tomatoes (and worse, potatoes) at him at public meetings, and on the night the Bill finally became law in 1951, the local Farmers’ Union forced him to resign. Ten years after his death, the sons of those farmers were saying that Le Feuvre’s Bill was the best thing that had ever happened to them.

    Stick at it folks. A change is gonna come…

  45. Holly Wise says:

    I will be one of the few to say I read this article and disagree with nearly every line of it. What the author describes as negative and “unbiblical” is exactly what I want.

    “…starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.” I say amen and let’s get started.

    Of course, I am not discrediting community or gathering with the saints (I’m familiar with all those Scriptures) but what I’m calling for are people who are willing to enter into a service and let the Holy Spirit lead. We like to compare ourselves with the ‘early church’ but we are nothing like them. And I’m not even sure that I want to be. I’m not prepared to encounter the level of persecution, division and hardship they endured. I doubt I’m alone in that boat.

    The early church relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide them. They had no Bible and probably many of them had never walked with Jesus. Could I say that they were ‘making it up as they went along’? They followed no rigors of the organized institution, which is where my biggest struggle is. We follow routine, we follow instructions, we follow a pattern that I’m not even sure we know its origination.

    “Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works…” Have we ever given him the opportunity to let him work on a bigger scale? It’s easy to say “yes!” but take a closer look. I firmly believe that if Jesus Christ were to walk into many of our churches today, he would be laughed out of the building. He didn’t preach the same sermon, he didn’t follow the same order of worship, he never taught VBS, he didn’t hold a steady job or raise godly kids, he probably stayed at his mom’s house when he needed to and yet he had a mission to change the world. According to this article, he wasn’t ready to be part of the church because he hadn’t done his time as a nameless, faceless church member.

    I guess I’m naive enough to still want to change the world and to believe that I can. In my small corner, in my community, in my career, I believe I can make a difference.

    And god forbid I ever fall into the contradictory category of a plodding visionary.

    • Kendall says:

      Isn’t Jesus about balance? I think – after reading all of this – we’re all missing the point. Some say there’s not enough vision – some say there’s too much. Some say there’s not enough radical behavior – some say there’s too much. All are needed right now. Everything is to be used for the glorification of God and the growth of His kingdom. God has empowered visionaries to cast visions given by the Holy Spirit. God has called radicals to action and empowered them with the Holy Spirit. God desires workers who will catch the Holy fire of the radicals and finish the job started by the blazers. Isn’t it true that the harvest is ready but the workers are few? Being ordinary is NOT the answer because Jesus is NOT ordinary. Finding purpose is not ordinary – in fact it has become the major problem of our culture. Individuals can’t find purpose so they find something else to fill their time. Organizations can’t find purpose so they flounder and fail and blame. The Church – the bride – has a clear purpose and it’s time that we embrace that calling. I believe the clear answer is that the church was formed to be a community of support and action not a business. And as “businesses”, we are acting more and more autonomously. Some will argue this, and I am so glad you are seeing unity in your church but what about His church? What do you see there? The Bridegroom is calling His bride to get ready and we are becoming more and more divided and less and less ready.

  46. [...] Pete Wilson mentioned this piece, which he originally titled Plodding Visionaries, as one of his top posts of 2010, I decided to give it another read.    It’s true.   We [...]

  47. [...] across this challenging blog post from Pete Wilson. Recommend on Facebook Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post [...]

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