New Metaphors for Church


There has been a great exploration of new metaphors for church. As we have moved away from the language of programme, and mechanism, there has been a re-discovery of the 'organic' in our structures, processes and descriptions.

In a mechanistic world we picked metaphors of mechanism. In an organic holistic world, we chose metaphors that fit this context. But are we in danger of repeating mistakes? By that I mean, when we organise church around the driving metaphors of culture, be they modern or post modern are we in being more in love with the latest enculturated metaphor, than a real idea of what church should do and be?

For example the idea of 'emergence', has used the life of ants to give us some insight into how self-organisation can take place. And we continue to look for metaphors that fit our desire for things organic and emerging, and avoid anything that smacks of structure and programme, and hierarchy.

In the wild wolves and monkeys, will attack members of their communities who are too aggressive and controlling, preferring more organic communal behaviour. Yet under community threats, stress and attack, a strict hierarchy is formed, of control and intention. So do we learn from wolves and monkeys that when the church is under stress and challenge what is needs it hierarchy and structure?

That flies in the face of the love affair of emergence theory, or the superficiality an infatuation of all things organic and spontaneous.

Now I am not arguing for hierarchy and control, just questioning the love affair with the metaphors of our culture, and wondering where they will lead us. Might we be asking now and in the future, if our best hopes for self organisation came to very little at a time when the church needed something more intentional to emerge?

Does my question make sense? I think I am asking how we explore new metaphors without becoming cultural fashion victims.