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9 Responses to “Worry Warts”

  1. Dave says:

    You know I love you Mike, and that you’re limited by being forced to be brief within the confines of your blog entry, but there are so many points at which I just can’t buy what you’re saying. I do appreciate the sense of your calling out head-knowledge as inadequate vs. body-life or how actions within movements of people, like the church, require strengthened networks with institution-type leadership. (That was a short-hand sentence if there ever was one.) But I think the Enlightenment is under-rated, not over-rated. The way we “do” society and church body life is constantly changing, and therefore so are how we define the good things that happen in it and the weak things. Every good thing – if not changing or evolving – eventually becomes a weakness. Just one example: with the post-WWII higher-ed boom, we’re bound to absorb a lot of good with a measure of bad – it’s almost as if we went through another enlightenment. A newly ideas-saturated culture drove thousands (millions?) into missions driven by the sense that The Word just needed legs – young college educated legs – and you and I have been four of those legs. We defied old-school dull churchy missions. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. You’re probably going to say I missed every point you made. I’m sensitive to group-think and the failure to appreciate change agents in a very sheepish trend-oriented culture. I love moving Hunter’s understanding of valuing institutional leadership, but even they need to get off the dime and be moved. “Masters of suspicion” have a place – let them speak up – they’re the bull-crap meters we need to keep us from falling asleep at the wheel.

  2. Gerard Weldele says:


    I hit me when reading your blog that the Enlightenment believed in “know the truth and the truth will set you free”.

    The folly of the Enlightenment, as with the Pharisees, was defining “know the truth” as an individual knowing facts – being able to give a right answer – as if the key to human flourishing was nothing more than a mathematical equation to be solved, which is often how the Gospel is presented to this day.

    The folly of the Enlightenment continued by defining “set you free” as freedom from all authority, including God, but unconcerned with bondage to Satan, Sin, and Death. Thus the Pharisees said to God the Son that they have never been in bondage to anyone (especially not Him).

    It is another episode in human history of the carnal mind touching spiritual truth and perverting it into something that has a form of godliness yet denying its power, thus deceiving many, including many in the Church.

  3. Byron Borger says:

    A great, great piece, Mike. Sure some good came from Enlightenment rationalism, but Christians need to be nurtured in the wise discernment about idols and ideologies. Your warnings have been good, and this was yet another excellent way into this process of learning to discern the dangers of pagan worldviews. Excellent.

    And, I never knew that the “worry wart” was a cartoon character. You never cease to amaze me with what details of social history you know and share with such ease. Thanks.

  4. Mike Metzger says:

    Byron: Thanks. I’m great company at cocktail parties.

  5. BARNABAS says:

    Is this just another example of a ‘Western’ mind set that sees ‘language’ as a key to change? Disregarding the physical, emotional, spiritual and volitional aspects of our persona. Individual faith is often a response to the pain of no space in a ‘Western church mentality’ The Romanisation of the Celtic church.

  6. Carl Creasman says:

    Mike…I think I’ve read enough of your work to anticipate somewhat your answer to this question….but I am not fully sure, so here goes. If I am reading you correctly, you and your sources would say that the expression of church we see today is a departure from the 1400 years before that.

    OK…so in real specific terms, what should the church look like? What, in a given normal American city, should it look like? Paid staff or no paid staff? Sunday service or no Sunday service? Preaching or no preaching? Singing or no singing?

    I think the church, like a lot of American institutions are broken (And a huge reason why the country is in decline), but I should do more than just say “broken.” I should offer a clear solution.

    What is your solution?

  7. Mike Metzger says:


    Great question. For starters, measure the right things to determine success (or effectiveness). In exile, the Judeans measured success according to Jeremiah 29:7 – “as the Babylonians flourish, so shall you.” Translation: To the degree that the center institutions in your city take the gospel seriously and act on it, to this degree your church flourishes. Example: I live near Annapolis. The United States Naval Academy is one of the city’s center institutions. If you look over the curriculum, the USNA does not take the gospel seriously, nor is it acting on it. Religion is relegated to “ECA” – extracurricular activities allowed on a given evening of the week. The church in exile would measure its flourishing according to abolishing such things as ECAs and being invited by the Provost to rewrite the curriculum. Of course, to accomplish this, the church would have to learn the language of the street (or the USNA) – which is what the Judeans had to do first in exile (Daniel 1).

    This does not appear to be how the Western church operates. It measures it success by size (attendance), the number of people in Bible studies (or “home groups”), and its budget. These things have no necessary relationship to flourishing.

    In closing, Edgar Schein (MIT) says you can learn the true mission of any organization by simply listening to the initial (and unedited) comments that roll off employees’ tongues. Try this experiment, Carl. Ask someone about their church. If the first thing they say is: “We’re really growing!” – then the actual mission is really growing. Forget the elaborate mission statement. If the first thing a parishioner says is: “We’ve got 1500 coming!” – then the actual mission is 1500 in attendance. The church I am describing would say, “Hmmmm… it depends on how the USNA is doing. We’ll know in 30 years.”

  8. Mike Metzger says:


    I overlooked your question regarding staffing. When the University of Michigan hired Brady Hoke as its football coach, the first thing Brady did was replace the staff. UM was adopting a pro-style offense and needed coaches who could train players to operate (flourish) in that system. The church in exile benefits from staff who can help practitioners bring about the flourishing of their city. In my USNA example, this means church staff assist those who work at USNA (and go to their church) in getting the Naval Academy to take the gospel seriously and act on it. To accomplish this, believers have to know how to get a foot in the door in order to one day get a place at the Provost’s table. This requires translating scripture into street (or USNA) language. Church staff would train practitioners to do this. Know any?

    In my limited experience, churches hire staff to “meet the needs” of parishioners, contributing to what Tim Keller says is plaguing today’s church: consumerism. Those “needs” are met by “getting involved” in the church, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good thing if “getting involved” means forming teams that benchmark flourishing by something like this: “as our city’s center institutions flourish, so do we as a church.” Tragically, in the case of most churches, this is not the case. “Getting involved” means “getting in a small group” where Christians share, fellowship, and study the Bible. These activities are necessary but insufficient for producing a “flourishing faith” according to Jeremiah 29:7. Few church staff recognize this because they are products of a seminary system that trained them to measure success by what Dallas Willard called the ABCs – attendance, building, and cash. Church staff generally have little to no experience in getting a foot in the door and a place at the table at the USNA. I’d hire staff who can assist practitioners in translating the faith in the workaday world.

  9. Barnabas says:

    Is there a false premise that a tension should exist between the ‘church’ and the ‘world’ that ignores intricacy and complexity of individual journeys in a community. Each pioneering a path that our earthen vessel walks in contrast to a clone factory of spirituality. A change of individual heart should not be supplanted by a cultural transformation of religion.

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