believe - behave - belong
my experience is mainly with the Church & specific churches, but i am speaking more broadly about groups in all parts of our culture.
this is generally the way things have worked when you are going to be a part of some group or organization. DEFINITELY this is the way it has worked in churches.
if you want to be a part of "us", 1st you need to BELIEVE. you need to believe what we believe. that comes 1st.
specifically in churches, you need to believe in Jesus. you need to believe that and maybe even some other important doctrines before you can even begin to THINK about belonging to our group.
This couldn't possibly be any clearer as most churches pretty much straight up say, if you want to be a member of our church you must 1st BELIEVE. that's the very minimum requirement.
but really there was another step in this system in Modernity. you couldn't just believe and then you belonged... really you had to BEHAVE before you could belong.
you need to act, dress, talk, walk, understand, fit in, and generally BEHAVE like the rest of the in group BEFORE you could be "in." before you could truly belong.
anyone alive who has ever been a part of a church knows this. this is just how it works in the Modern religious world. you don't truly belong unless you behave a certain way - like all the rest of us. then we'll let you belong.
<*MAYBE some in the Modern Church would argue it was more like "believe - belong - behave." in that a person was truly accepted into belonging after they believed something and then they could take their time in learning to behave. i respectfully disagree.>
but once you finally make it... once you finally believe the right stuff & then behave the right way... You're in! you're finally in. you belong now. and you also become one of the "in crowd" to forever perpetuate this system.
i happen to think that's all pretty jacked up.
especially because it perpetuates forever. that is, as long as Modernity sticks around as the dominant way the world operates.
but things are changing. some would say they've already changed... there are just Modernity's fragments hanging on in corners of the Western world. but no doubt, postmodernity is coming.
and postmodernity doesn't quite embrace INDIVIDUALISM the way that Modernity did. the individual will not be king in this new world. there will be a huge priority on BELONGING.
in that old system of believe - behave - belong someone maybe wanted to belong, but there were just too many barriers.
the world will necessarily change though.
this is what the new system will be (if it hasn't changed already when we weren't looking) :
belong - behave - believe
yep. exactly the opposite.
when someone wants to be a part of some group in this new world - they will simply be welcomed. the group, organization, or whatever will welcome them in.
then eventually they'll start to "behave" - look, act, dress, talk, etc... like everyone else in the group. & eventually, they will believe. believe that certain things are important - the same things that the rest of the group believes are important.
then they're "in." but they felt "in" long ago... because they belonged.
and being able to first belong actually ENABLED them to then behave and believe!
the Church will follow suit. no longer will you need to behave and believe a certain way to "belong" to a community in a local church. you will be welcomed with open arms and you will BELONG simply because you are. simply because you are curious, or because you have a desire to "belong" in community.
the beautiful thing is that this new way of the world will enable TONS of "outsiders"... people who don't believe and behave like Christians in the church to BELONG first. slowly, they'll begin to see that the way the others in this community are behaving is very attractive. it appeals to them. this Jesus way of life actually appears to be a better way to live. and they'll start to follow suit.
and then... yep, you guessed it - they will believe. it will be real. it will be personal. Jesus will capture their heart and be their Savior.
too bad the Church didn't figure this out 300 years ago. because Jesus made it pretty clear.
and even before Jesus ever showed up, God, in the Old Testament chose a people & simply asked them to "join" Him. be a part of His movement. just follow Him. it wasn't until after they did that that most of them believed.
And Jesus' example - when He called each of His apostles... He just said "come follow Me." just be a part of what i'm doing. come join me. yeah, you can belong.
how preposterous! Jesus didn't even ask them what they believed 1st? whoa.
slowly they're behavior all changed and started to be more and more like Jesus. they saw that it was way better that way.
and it wasn't until way way later that Jesus finally asks them - what do you believe? or "who do YOU say that I am?" & Peter says "You are the Messiah... the Anointed One... the Son of God!"
it's hard to know that you can believe until you belong.
that's why i love being a part of Ridge Church. one of our mantras... one of the things we set out to do with this thing we call Ridge is to create a place, a church, a community where people can belong BEFORE they believe. and it's happening.
i wrote a lot about that with Ridge specifically HERE.
so, i'm thankful that postmodernism will actually force our churches to change. but i'm even more thankful that Ridge has been doing this from day 1. i'll end this post with an echo of the words i wrote in that post about this a few years ago...
"i want to be a part of the place where people have no problem belonging way before they believe. a church FULL of peeps who are walking with us, hanging out with us, before they even know what they fully think about God. that's beautiful. that's what i signed up for."