Going Public

Michael Metzger

Last week, I wrote how a creative minority requires a three-year reorientation before “going public.” Why? The answer has to do with mustard seeds.

A few weeks back I was doing my Covid workout, riding a stationary bike watching YouTube videos. I happened upon a pre-Covid meeting in Italy where Charles Taylor suggests the mustard seed parable as a way forward for the church in a secular age.

Hmmm, I thought. Well, Jesus did liken the kingdom to a mustard seed that grows into a tree. He wasn’t emphasizing the bigness of the kingdom, since the mustard tree is not the biggest tree around. Christ was emphasizing it’s a large kingdom, given its small beginning.

OK, I thought. Later that day I google mustard trees. Experts say it’s best to nurture them indoors for three years before taking them outside, or going public, so to say. Interesting.

Now we all know trees have lifecycles. They grow, mature, die. I saw this firsthand as many of our tree limbs, leaden with snow from a recent blizzard, broke off right and left, signaling the beginning of the end of a tree’s life. Covid-19 has been likened to a blizzard, the beginning of a 12-18 month “ice age” breaking up our popular ministry models.

OK, so what? Societies are like trees. They too have lifecycles. They typically play out over the course of 500 years. Then they die like a tree with overextended limbs, for societies, over time, tend to overplay their hand. What if this is true of the kingdom of God?

I ask because Jesus never said the kingdom grows into this mustard tree (e.g., the first-century church or any church tradition) lasting until he comes again. It grows into a mustard tree. What if the kingdom, like every mustard tree, grows and dies in 500-year cycles? Every 500 years, new mustard seeds must be planted in fresh soil, since it’s unwise to pour new wine in old wineskins, or plant new seeds in what T. S. Eliot called The Waste Land.

Our most recent 500-year cycle (AD1500-2000) is wasteland, dead. It was over in 2000. James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) likens our post-2000 situation to that of the nation of Judah who, after a 500-year cycle of decline, was deported to Babylon and exile. Since the year 2000, the church in America has been in exile.

In Babylon, only a few exiles recognized exile. The sons of Judah. They were mustards seeds, a small beginning. They pioneered paths for returning home by learning the language and literature of Babylon during their first three years in exile. Then they “went public.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said the sons of Judah are “the original creative minority.” He felt they are key to America’s renewal. I agree. Modern-day daughters and sons of Judah can pioneer paths for American Christianity to return to the ancient path. But that’ll take three years.

Why, you ask? Simple. Most everyone in the western world, Christians included, is unconsciously competent in the “dis-enchanted” background that has governed the western world for 500 years. Unconscious competence means we’re not conscious of operating in this false, rationalist, left-brain Enlightenment background. It’s “un-thought.”

OK, you say, I’ll just start thinking differently. That’s how left-brained people think. Truth is, we didn’t think our way into this problem, so we’re not going to be able to think our way out of it. The path home requires mentors – right-brain, imaginative prophets who know the way home (Iain McGilchrist describes the right hemisphere as “prophetic”).

Prophets help faith traditions become unconsciously competent in the “enchanted” world. This generally happens in four stages over the course of three years.

In the first stage, prophets expose how we’re unconsciously competent in false assumptions about the gospel. Those who respond positively move to the second stage, becoming conscious of their incompetence. This can be painful. Those who keep following reach conscious competence in the enchanted background. Finally, in stage four, they gain unconscious competence in the enchanted background. They can now “go public,” acting as modern-day daughters and sons of Judah, pioneering paths back to the ancient path.

I know, some might be thinking, I don’t know about this... Well, look at Jesus’ disciples. They were unconsciously incompetent in how the kingdom operates. The Lord immersed them in the enchanted background for three years. They became unconsciously competent in it, afterward “going public.” Saul, persecuting the church, was unconsciously incompetent in how the kingdom operates. Then he ran into Jesus. After converting to Christ, the Apostle Paul spent three years in Arabia, becoming unconsciously competent in the ancient enchanted background. Then he went public, first acquainting himself with Peter (Gal.1:18).

Last week, I said our plan is to resource Christians who want to be unconsciously competent in the enchanted background. Well, they must first recover it. That’ll take three years. We will then resource them to become a creative minority. Yes, it’s audacious, a BHAG, but if you want to be considered for our pilot project, please contact Glenn Bryan: gbryan@claphaminstitute.org.

Next week, I’ll show you a series of pictures depicting how our pilot project works. After that, we’ll launch with those who want to recover the enchanted background.

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