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The Domesticated Church


Last Wednesday night I spoke to the InterVarsity students at Drake University. Drake IV invited the students from Central College to come over, so we ended up having a nice sized group. Since I didn’t have an assigned topic, I chose to speak about Todd Packer. Unless you watch The Office, you’ll not know who Todd Packer is. Todd Packer is a role character that drops in on the plot from time to time. Packer can only be described by words like crude, unseemly, inappropriate, vile, profane, and irreverent. In his first appearance Todd Packer is introduced as a long time friend of Michael Scott. Packer had been on the road doing sales for Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company, but was ready to settle down and work out of the Scranton office. Michael manipulates the system to get Packer hired, and instantly he upsets the delicate balance of an already fragile office with his antics and crude behavior. When the office employees begin to voice their complaints about Packer, Michael Scott agrees that Packer has to settle down. So Michael pulls Packer aside for a heart to heart talk that goes something like this: “Todd, you’ve been an outdoor cat for a long time. Now you have to be an indoor cat.”

What Michael was saying was that Packer had to comply with the standards and norms of the office if he intended to work there. Todd Packer, however, could not be domesticated. This, in part, is what troubles the church in America. We reach out to people, inviting them to Christ, then engage them in some form of discipleship process. Many times all this does is domesticate the faith of people so they can live like “indoor cats.”

That was Jesus’ problem. Jesus refused to be domesticated. He spent disproportionate amounts of time with the marginalized and neglected in his first century world compared to the few recorded instances that He spent at “church.” He lived as an outdoor cat among outdoor cats, an act for which He would eventually be killed by the indoor cats. Undomesticated cats, after all, are disturbing forces wherever they are. Jesus was certainly no exception.

The larger conversation for me leads back to the missional church. The missional church is passionate about being God’s plan for an undomesticated world. It invites believers to live among the undomesticated, meeting them at their point of need. It’s not about gathering, its about sending.

Following my talk last Wednesday one offended student approached me to defend the practices of her church. I did not discount all of the processes she described nor did I criticize those of the congregation who faithfully ran the bases for Jesus. The missional church is not about processes, its about intended outcomes. If the goal is to gather and get bigger, its not the missional church. But if the goal is to develop and release people to be the presence of Christ in the reality of a 24/7 world, then we’re on to something. At the end of the day we’re either seeking to make people like Christ or we’re seeking to make them like us. And if the goal is to make them like Christ, the outcome is unavoidable. They will live as disturbing forces for God and for good beyond the walls of the church building.


  1. Matt Manos says:

    A challenging proposition. It is often hard for one such as myself, who was raised in church, to escape the cookie cutter Christian mentality.

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