Living in the Tension

I don’t know about you, but I find myself living in a world between. Living in the tension between ubiquitous opposites. Sometimes this tension is the result of seeing “what is” verses “what it should be.” Other times it is the result of attempting to live with the paradox of equally good opposites.

I see this world between as good. It is a place where God is able to mold and form me. As one author wrote, this “tension is that space between stability and change.”

Here is my short list of areas where I find myself living in the tension:

  • attractional vs. incarnational
  • community vs. buildings
  • decisions vs. disciples
  • demographics vs. discernment
  • dialogical vs. monological
  • egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • faith vs. works
  • grace vs. truth
  • informal vs. formal
  • models vs. movements
  • organic vs. structured
  • ordained vs. the ordinary
  • organizations vs. organisms
  • participant vs. audience
  • postmodern vs. modern
  • producer vs. consumer
  • professional vs. passionate
  • programs vs. processes
  • seating vs. sending
  • services vs. service
  • settler vs. pioneer
  • uniformity vs. diversity
  • younger vs. older

What others can you think of?
How do you deal with living in the tension?
How can we leverage the opportunities inherent in this tension?

17 Responses to “Living in the Tension”

  1. robin dugall says:

    Rick – I couldn’t agree with you more! this is an important post with something that I learned when I was in college…that the Kingdom of God is filled with dialectic realities…in other words, complexities and mysteries of paradox that are NOT easily answered or experienced. So, I’m going to copy and paste your post…I’ll put it on my blog as well…good job. I’ll do some thinking about some others!

    Peace to you,

  2. Rick Meigs says:

    Robin: Good comment and insight. Look forward to the comments on your blog.

  3. Tim Abbott says:

    Rick – thanks. This is really helpful in naming the tensions we so often experience as disciples. Here are a few more that have touched my experience…

    retain vs. release
    teaching vs. learning
    information vs. experience
    many vs. few
    tolerance vs. transformation
    public vs. private (as in ‘faith’)
    relevant vs. radical

    you’ve got me thinking…


  4. Rick Meigs says:

    Wow Tim, those are really good! Thanks for sharing. I can see that retain vs. release and relevant vs. radical are going to be for a while.

  5. Nathan Blake says:

    Here’s a few I’ve found popular among myself and my generation.

    Tradition vs. Truth
    Authority vs. Guidance
    Us vs. Them
    Here vs. There
    Christianity vs. Paulianity
    Curiosity vs. Heresy

  6. Rick Meigs says:

    Nathan: An interesting list. Would not have though of many of them. Thanks for the additions.

  7. Here is a few ideas

    Kingdom vs Christendom
    Dialectics vs Divisions
    Participation vs Programs
    Holistic vs Duelistic
    Worship vs Music

  8. I meant to add that we need this tension.

    For too long we have been too keen to run away from differences, disagreements, paradoxes and divergent ideas.

    we need to remember that none of us has a monopoly on being right (or wrong for that matter).

    If we live in the tension between many of these things we give ourselves the capacity to grow.

    Some the above dichotomies represent journeys between two points. Some are dialectic contradictions that when resolved will create new realities that will no doubt have its own dichotomies.

    One way or another if our aim is growth then we need to live in the tension to achieve it.

  9. Rick Meigs says:

    Reminded me of Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” It is this living between that causes us to “be sharpened” by others.

  10. Rob Robinson says:


    The one that comes to mind quickly and maybe where I find myself currently is:

    Relaxation vs. Lasiness

    Centered Set vs. Bounded Sets

    Great post by the way!! Lots to think about.

  11. Adam G. says:


    I really have trouble with missional vs maintenance, especially because I have trouble defining the line between the two. I still get dizzy when I try to figure out whether offering and ESL class at the church building or starting a youth group is too “maintenance.”

    Also, I’m not sure how to put it into a “this vs. that,” but I have a terrible fear of slipping back into a hard-line stance of some kind. I am so analytical that I end up becoming rigid, and the last time that happened everything came crashing down.

    Maybe “flexible vs. rigid.”

  12. Rick Meigs says:

    Adam: I REALLY like “flexible vs. rigid” because it is something we all live in tension with. Where should we be flexible and where do we draw the line (and so often it seems to be a moving target)? I find myself struggling with this question often.

  13. Rick Meigs says:

    Rob: The issue of laziness often comes to my mind when considering this whole missional paradigm. The question I often ask myself is: I’m I drawn to this missional paradigm because it is right and true, or because I’m lazy and don’t won’t to do the hard work required to bring the gospel to those around me?

  14. brad brisco says:

    Wow these are very good. I can resonate deeply with each. A tension I once heard someone else share that I think about often is “abiding” v. “abounding.”

  15. Wayne Shih says:

    Great list. Here’s a few I’ve been thinking about:

    Proverbs (life has order) vs. Ecclesiastes (life is enigmatic)
    “Enjoy all things richly” vs. “Life does not consist of the abundance of things”

  16. Dianne says:

    Rules vs. Rhythms (external vs. internal)

  17. check mine out……

    keep up the good work man…….