Brick by Brick: Deconstruction and Reformation

12 03 2008

There’s this story about St. Francis of Assisi, in which he hears Jesus speak to him from the crucifix. Jesus tells him to rebuild the church.  So he starts to do just that – brick by brick, he set out to re-assemble the same dilapidated church building in San Damiano where he heard Jesus speak to him.  Eventually, in the midst of rebuilding churches, he realized that it wasn’t the physical structure he was commissioned by Jesus to rebuild, but he was being called to rebuild the actual church, the body of Christ.  He did so by choosing to follow Jesus in a radical departure from societal norms.Many of the expressions of the emerging church bear the marks of a Franciscan reformation.  There’s a monastic flavor, an opposition to the prevailing culture through ancient spiritual practices.  There’s a prophetic, deconstructionist flavor that challenges an often entrenched ideological approach to spirituality that divorces itself from the responsibility of taking Jesus seriously, by doing just that – simply taking Jesus at his word and doing what he asks us to do: clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, feed the hungry, heal the sick, etc.).  There’s an organic flavor, in the sense that we do life with Jesus at the center and experience a gradual transformation that is grounded in reality (as opposed to a cheaper name-it and claim-it instantaneous transformation that is, implicitly or otherwise, often promised to pre-christians at altar calls). The reason I bring this up here is because the Assemblies of God is still a relatively new kid on the block (we were formed out of the holiness movement at the turn of the 20th century, so we’re just shy of 100).  There are probably people still alive who were kids when this movement coalesced into its’ current expression, and I can imagine they felt at the time a sense of history knocking at the door to let them know that they were called by God to push against the inertia of the established church.Perhaps by wrestling with the implications of the emergent church, we of Pentecostal heritage can get in touch with our own roots, all the way back to Francis of Assisi, who may very well be regarded as the first modern pentecostal.

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