The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Models of Church & Quiz

What is your model of Church? Here's a quiz that is based on the categories of church in Avery Dulles' book Models of Church.

You opinion of church, and your expectations, assumptions and levels of satisfaction (or not), may depend on the model of church you are operating under. If you see the church in judicial terms--as an authoritarian parent--you may either be easily disgusted or hold fast to absolute rules & regulations in response. According to Dulles, this would be in line with an "institutional" model. Whether you accept or reject the church on these terms, you are operating under the same model.

If you have a "mystical communion" model (which is how I tested), you may see church in more loose terms as a rag-tag, wayward bunch of people thrown together by the spirit of Christ, in all forms and with all sorts of baggage.

Its like how Bruce Springsteen described his E Street Band in the recent eulogy of organist Danny Federici:

"If we didn't play together, the E Street Band at this point would probably not know one another. We wouldn't be in this room together. But we do... We do play together. And every night at 8 p.m., we walk out on stage together and that, my friends, is a place where miracles occur...old and new miracles. And those you are with, in the presence of miracles, you never forget. Life does not separate you. Death does not separate you. Those you are with who create miracles for you, like Danny did for me every night, you are honored to be amongst."

To me, that is church. People who wouldn't otherwise be together, but yet for some strange reason, we are on this ship together, perhaps lost at sea, yet united under a purpose. You've got your businessman, your teenybopper. You got the married couple and the captain, and the skipper. You got people who want to be there, people who are just along for the ride, some there to pick up women or with ulterior motives, and others who don't know what they are doing. Yet, we're all simply . . . there. We belong and we participate because somehow, someway, we are on a mission together. Whether this group makes rules and regulations or develops a hierarchy of leadership doesn't matter as much as the fact that our togetherness is the most critical element defining our existence as a group--and the "force" that has brought us together.

By some strange, mystical reason, we are in communion with each other--hence "mystical communion." Agreeing with the leadership or following the rules isn't as strong in this model as in the institutional model. The grace of God putting us together and in which we live and work is the driving force in this model. In the institutional model, following rules and making professions of faith are absolute requirements for membership itself.

A lot of Catholics see Church as "family"--we were born into it, we belong, like it or not. That's a model I'd add to the conversation. Dulles has three other models of church that he explores in his book, besides the two above.

So far, this has been an outstanding book, and I'm only a chapter-and-a-half into it.

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