Thursday, December 16, 2004

Factories for men: an allegory

A church is a local gathering of the citizens of Heaven intended to work together as a factory for godly men and women. It is not so much a factory for creating saints, per se, but for them to have some value-added work done on them. They are to be taught and encouraged to live for their King and should be trained to bring new citizens into His Kingdom. It is a factory whose raw material is regenerated, washed men and women, and whose end product is supposed to be godly, motivated citizens of the Kingdom. Well, ideally, at least.

Over the course of time, different designs have been tried for these factories. Some men have confused their factory with the Kingdom that they were citizens of, attempting to convert people into it rather than into the Kingdom. Innovations were made to the factories, sometimes dysfunctional processes were adopted, and ineffective techniques were often used in the effort to produce godly men and women. Ineffective processes didn't necessarily keep men from remaining saints, but sometimes kept them from being godly ones. Of course, some citizens eventually renounced their citizenship in the Kingdom.

Results from various experiments in factory designs varied as widely as the techniques tried. Some innovations that were not contrary to the divine record were effective at producing godly saints, and some factory operators that chose not to use certain manufacturing processes were also effective at producing God-fearing citizens. Unfortunately, the opposite also happened. Innovations prohibited by instructions contained in the divine record produced decreasingly godly saints and led some away from Christ altogether. Likewise, restrictions unduly imposed in some factories were also contrary to scripture, producing less Christ-like men and women.

In an era of great social awakening, a movement came along to restore the primitive design of the first factories recorded in the divine record. It was a noble experiment in the beginning, intending only to unite the saints produced by the various factories already in existence. But during much of the 20th century, the grand experiment in simplifying the horribly inefficient contemporary factories took a bit of a wrong turn. Conscientious men whose aim was to arrive at the ideally designed factory ended up severely crimping the production of godly citizens in their factories while they debated its ideal name, look, feel, and production techniques. Both the quality and quantity of the saints processed in these factories declined rapidly.

Debates over systems of production, in some cases, shut down production all together. Men became so consumed with how the machinery should best be configured for optimum performance that they forgot that it wasn't performing very well at all in the meantime. In some cases, they didn't realize the switch had been flipped off on the operation while they debated the risks of turning out Christ-like saints using an incorrect process. Some actually came to think that the decreased production rate was a sign of faithfulness, and that any factory which actually produced a greater number of active, committed citizen of the Kingdom must have something wrong with it. Sadly, many factories ended up disbanding or split into multiple factories, each generally less productive than the one that spawned it.

Meanwhile, evangelical factories, although imperfect in their operations, were humming along producing citizens motivated to serve the King. Imperfection appeared to be the human condition, but that didn't stop these other factories from trying to improve their manufacturing processes. They had been given citizens to improve, and imperfect or not, they were determined to accomplish that task. Their citizens were encouraged to live godly lives and to go out into the world to bring the lost into the Kingdom and into their factories.

Eventually, after another great awakening, the time came when the saints who were being processed by all of these disparate factories realized that they were, indeed, citizens of the same Kingdom united for the same Purpose: to spread the good news of their King. The great mystery of oneness in Christ had been solved. The angels rejoiced at the multifaceted wisdom of God that was made known through the Lord's saints in His Kingdom.

The moral of this story: We're citizens of a Kingdom, not a Factory. Let's stop being fearful of different methods of processing and fire up our factories once again to start turning out more Christ-like citizens.

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