The Future of the Church (or reaching for Trinitarian tension)

The world we live in today is one of increasing smallness.  It used to be that one could go their entire life without meeting someone from another country or even another religion.  Now, I can subscribe to the twitter stream of a Hindu monk in India.  This changes the game for religion.  It is no longer possible for a group to maintain hegemony through the ignorance of its adherents to other perspectives.  It requires a level of comfort with grey-ness, or tension, on a scale much larger than ever before.  The key to this life, as far as I am concerned, is to have and experience a faith that is centered on the Trinity.  For too long has the church ignored considering this central aspect of the faith.  For too long has it been relegated to chintzy metaphors that discount its profundity.  Now is the time to pick up the standard of the Trinity and hold it high before us as we march into the future.

However important this concept is, it has often been ignored because of the difficulty of relating it to the human experience.  My best understanding of Trinity is as the personification of relationship.  This is not personification in the sense of the literary device that gives human qualities to inanimate objects, but in the sense that the Trinity expresses relationship by creating a being that is explained best by relationship.  It is personification in the sense that it personifies (embodies, epitomizes, is the incarnation of) relationship.  This is a powerful way to understand and speak of God.  This would seem to indicate that as we relate to others, we are experiencing some piece of God, or that we are echoing the basic aspect of who God is.  In a world defined as much by globalization and social networking as anything else, a faith centered around the beauty of relationships is a powerful one.  It is in relationships with others that we grow, are challenged, are loved, and experience almost all of the deepest aspects of what it means to be human.

It is in its unique brand of relationship that Trinity exhibits another feature that is key to the future of the church: tension.  This tension is not merely the tension that exists in all relationships as we understand ourselves and our life in comparison and contrast to others. It is far deeper.  It is the tension created by two seemingly mutually exclusive concepts that find themselves held together in Trinity:  three and one.  Somehow those two concepts exist in the person of God, and that is exactly what a postmodern world needs: comfort with tension.  This demonstrates that God not only defies and exists in a dimension beyond logic, but that he is comfortable with things that seem to be true, yet are logically impossible.  In a non-tension based faith where logic is king, one has a difficult time reconciling the fact that evil exists in the same universe that an all-good, all-powerful deity exists.  However, when one finds life in tension, the response to that problem is to realize that beyond both existing, the truth of each confirms the existence of the other. Or you might say that there is creation and life in the  tension between those ideas.

It is in this tension that there exists a great mystery, the mystery of the Godhead.  The modern world has reached out its mind and tools only to be disillusioned with a world that might be fully explained one day.  Our race longs for something beyond us, something mysterious, something not describable by the scientific method.  That is the Trinity.  It is a being in which artist, flesh and spirit meet.  It is a being which stretches beyond the cosmos, beyond time, and beyond the finite, yet calls out to us in beautiful creations, captivating love, and extravagant action: O, great mystery.

If the church were to take hold of this distinctive concept and allow it to inform and infuse its ministry, there would be a connection and relevance that has not been seen for decades if not centuries.  No longer would we focus on impersonal programs where the priority is the anonymous dissemination of information, the church would focus on developing deep relational connections.  No longer would we demand to share the same logical explanation of God before eating with our brothers or sisters.  Knowing that life exists in the space between those in tension, we would welcome those of differing view points to our table, we would reach out and minister to the world together.  And, with the knowledge that our world desires mystery, we would let go of all the modern control issues and allow the Spirit to move in our midst.  We would open ourselves up to explore the mysteries of God and call others into that same exploration.  In short, we would be exactly what our world needs right now:  the Body of Christ.