when pushing the envelope, don’t destroy the letter.

Many of us in the emerging church or missional conversations can become wary, disillusioned, and disappointed with the church. It moves so slowly. It changes imperceptibly. It squashed innovation ruthlessly (unless it is innovation of basically the same thing). Many times it seems that we can’t break out of the status quo without a serious jolt, a shock to the system, a dramatic upheaval.

And this is where we come in. The “we” of missional change. The “we” of emerging openness. The “we” of prophetic pronouncement. The “we” that wants to look back on our lives and know that “we” were on the side of history, of a great revolution, for God’s kingdom against the status quo of mere churchiness. And so “we” come to push the envelope. But often when “we” are pushing the envelope “we” end up destroying the letter. In the effort of tearing down walls we end up building new ones. Often we fail to accomplish what we set out to do, and lose ourselves and our relationships over an ideal.

But Paul, even in the midst of his immense frustration with the church in Corinth, needing to push all the envelopes and buttons to get them back in line, still could say and live:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor. 3:2-3)

Because letters written on hearts are from Christ, the ministries and individual which pushes the envelop in the name of Christ must take care not to destroy those letters in the process. Our zeal is no excuse for running over people and communities. So, when you are pushing the envelope, be sure you don’t destroy the letter.