One of the most bizarre and poignant stories i’ve ever read about stubbornness comes from an unlikely place: Canada.
Between two farms near Valleyview, Alberta, you can find two parallel fences, only two feet apart, running for a half mile. Why are there two fences when one would do? Two farmers, Paul and Oscar, had a disagreement that erupted into a feud. Paul wanted to build a fence between their land and split the cost, but Oscar was unwilling to contribute. Since he wanted to keep cattle on his land, Paul went ahead and built the fence anyway.
After the fence was completed, Oscar said to Paul, “I see we have a fence.” “What do you mean ‘we’?” Paul replied. “I got the property line surveyed and built the fence two feet into my land. That means some of my land is outside the fence. And if any of your cows sets foot on my land, I’ll shoot it.” Oscar knew Paul wasn’t joking, so when he eventually decided to use the land adjoining Paul’s for pasture, he was forced to build another fence, two feet away. Oscar and Paul are both gone now, but their double fence stands as a monument to the high price we pay for stubbornnessDaren Wride, Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1
I’ve seen enough “prophetic” words about the blindness of the church in this season of history to know that it is a prominent word. And it gets tons of claps and fire emojis. But it occurs to me, maybe it’s not blindness we’re dealing with maybe it’s stubbornness.
After reading and studying and then teaching earlier this year the description of the church in Acts 2:42-47, i’m forced to wonder if maybe we are missing insight and wisdom and victory not because we are blind but because we’ve only chosen to try to build the structure of the church on one or two of the pillars instead of all of them.
In the passage in Acts there at 4 things that the early church were devoted to:
- the apostles teaching
- breaking bread
4 pillars created the structure. 4 pillars made up the framework of the church.
We love the teaching. We love to hear somebody who’s got a new word for us. We love to hear intriguing and engaging and even infuriating sermons and Bible studies.
- But are we fellowshipping with one another?
- But are we breaking bread together on a regular basis?
- But are we praying together (not just in our own prayer closet or our car, but together)?
Jesus is absolutely the cornerstone of the church -loadbearing point of the people of God. He always will be. The church is not built on our activity or our ability, it is built on Christ’s sufficiency. However, the early believers seem to have understood that the pillars of the church, though they were sitting on the foundation of Christ, were irreplaceably important for creating a sufficient structure to experience the transformation and life change of God in their lives and in the world.
Look at those four things they were devoted to, see them as four pillars that were anchored into the foundation of Jesus, and now see how that image becomes more powerful when we take away three of them and watch the challenge to be healthy and protected and victorious. Or even when we just take away two of them, leaving half. Suddenly you don’t have a structure that people can find refuge in, with one pillar, the apostles teaching for instance, the roof can’t be supported because one point can’t support a roof with any stability in the face of strong winds or attack (Ephesians 4).
Even if you have two pillars anchored in the cornerstone of Jesus, let’s say the apostles teaching and prayer meetings, it’s better, and it’s more stable, but it also forces the covering over the church to rely on balance instead of stability. 2 poles can hold up a roof, but not nearly as well as 4.
And so maybe it’s not that we’re blind. Maybe that’s not the issue. Maybe it’s not a lack of true revelation capable of transforming our lives. Maybe it’s not that we are victims of our culture. Maybe it’s not that we are walking in some incredible or incurable darkness. Maybe the problem is actually that we’ve just chosen an incomplete structure and then called it “church.”
Maybe we’re not devoted to the right things – or maybe we’re not devoted to enough things – but either way I don’t believe that it’s blindness. I’m inclined to believe that it’s really just stubbornness. But the price we pay for stubbornness is unbelievably high. And we see this clearly in Acts as we observe the strength and stability of the church in the infancy of the movement, surrounded by a hostile culture and in the face of persecution. The 1st Century church looks stronger than our 21st Century, Western version not because they had a different Spirit, or more inspired revelations, but perhaps because they chose to allow these 4 pillars to create a canopy of confidence anchored in the sufficiency of Christ.