Monday, 16 January 2012
I find it hard to get too worked up about the wavelet of conversation about the language of church family or Baptist family currently swashing around the Baptist blogosphere. Just worked up enough to have a bit of a blog myself.
Seems to me that family language became popular to emphasise the relational aspect of church. This was part of the whole cuddlyfying process that was a much welcome dimension of the charismatic movement per se and the wider informalising of culture of which the movement was a manifestation. As such it was part of the reaction against an overly formal expression of church life. The use of family language helped to contribute to toning down the institutional feel of church that many of us encountered when getting involved for the first time in the 60's / 70's.
Thing is though no one image can do everything. Each metaphor runs the risk bringing unwelcome and unintended connotations to the table. That's in the very nature of metaphors, they are allusive, evocative not definitive.
Some advocate speaking of the Baptist movement rather than family. I can see why this might be attractive at a time when we wish to emphasise the missional nature of church and further downplay its institutional life. But movement language might run the risk of de-emphasising the relational dimension of church life.
We oughtn't to imagine that by switching metaphors we will somehow get it right. I reckon that if we are to bespeak the (ideally) rich reality of church we need to deploy a range of metaphors. By all means let's stir up the language, keep it fresh, use it to finesse our meaning and to promote our political priorities but let's not thin it out. By all means emphasise movement but let's not stop aspiring to become family at its best.