13 October 2010

Insiders & Outsiders: Pt 2

Who are the outsiders? Who are insiders? Who formed the boundary and who maintained it?

How would any of these people feel in your organisation, your church or on your turf?

In preparation for talking to insiders about outsiders, and how outsiders view the machinations of churches and organisations that have forgotten why they exist, and are evolving into self-perpetuating shells of their intended organism ...

Refugees are often considered outsiders.
They flee from a threat and are in a liminal limbo for many years. Sometimes they are in a UN camp. Other times they are at the mercy of the local community where they've sought refuge. They have few or no rights, are perceived as taking jobs from locals and live off the leftovers and crumbs of the insiders.

Eventually they are processed like forms, products or animals and sent to a host country to resettle. There they are outsiders as they learn the ways of that new place. Many of them remain as outsiders for a generation or two, until the younger ones grow up as natives, lose their accents and lose their refugee identity and stigma.

The Church labels outsiders as the lost.
I don't think the lost would like that label or would choose to apply it to themselves. They know where they are and are often quite content with the status quo.

We often begin conversations with these outsiders, knowing exactly where we want the conversation to end up; with a conversion. We are even prepared to put the words in their mouths, often having them already printed on cards or on the inside of our Bibles.

That's not a conversation and it is often not very respectful. Many outsiders view it as manipulative, arrogant and rude. Conversations are about listening and being truly interested in what is being said. Conversations are about mutual give and take, respect and appreciation of the dignity of the individuals involved. Conversations should not be programmed, strategised, counted or rated. They are organic, as unique as the participants and the ingredients of the day.

We should leave a conversation considering what we've learned, not debating about whether we got it right or made a good case.

If we were tuned to the love God felt for that lost sheep in Jesus' story in Luke's Gospel, we'd be more anguished over God's concern for what He'd lost, than we are anxious over winning a debate. Labelling and loving are worlds apart.

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