Top Down Christianity? I Don’t Think So…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy, do make my best hope for you come true! Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view. Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. Phillipians 2:1- 6ish ( Phillips New Testament)
“In solitude we can come to the realization that we are not driven together, but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not just as partners who can satisfy our deepent needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God’s all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that community is not in common ideology, but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed realize that community is not made, but given. (1)
I have slowly been working through a document assigned to me, about my role within the church at large. I have struggled with it, because it finds “hope” for the church, not within the body of Christ itself, but within the leadership of the church. I don’t think so, matter of fact, I know from 15 years of pastoral ministry, and almost that long in management, it doesn’t work that way. It instead. Deacons, Pastors, Priests, Bishops, are not that which around the church grows, even if we are often a focal point during a worship service.
The identity of the Church, whether in a congregational form, or in the sense of the Church being all believers throughout the world and time (what some theologians call the invisible church) is not based in its leadership. It is based in Christ, and in His love and mercy. It is found when people are brought together in the love of Christ, and begin experiencing that love from others. It requires patience, as we grow in love, and the side effect of that is growing in knowledge. Let me make this clear – it is not growing people primarily theologically that is the mission of the church, it is growing people int heir trust of God, in their desire to receive His love, which results in them loving their neighbor. Theology may help in this endeavor, but it will not, cannot replace that which the church should be.
Let me give two examples. You can have the proper view of the Lord’s Supper, You can define it as well as Chemnitz, be able to receite Acquinas and Abelard and every theological nuance about it. But if that is what is going through your mind as you kneel at the altar rail, you have missed something. The words Luther found so necessary to know, given/shed for you. I’ve seen guys who were gang members, and little children be able to know that, to cry with tears of “for me? Really”, to tears of purest joy as they partake. That is the church.
Another example. A little less than a month ago, my wife gave me the news that she was pregnant. At our age, we were concerned and ask people to pray, and many did. On Tuesday, we were told that Kay had miscarried, something we suspected…yet prayed wasn’t true. It’s hard to even type these words. But the church, the church as the entity of the body of believers are coming through. Many expressions of their sorrow with us, but even more, the words that sound so powerfully into my heart. “praying for you”.
Praying for you.
Only two people tried to come up with some kind of theory that they thought would relieve our pain, or make it less. Those explanations didn’t make it less. But over 100 people acknowledged the loss, the lack of words, gathered us up and brought our pain before God, knowing no other words would offer us help. That’s not top-down church. That’s not the owrk of just one congregation, for there were Lutherans, Catholics, a Methodist. Young and old, Clergy and laity,. Ministering to my wife and I, in a way that made sense. That’s just the church, the people of God, having the mindset of Christ. They know His love, and know that in times like this, that is what will sustain us. That’s the church. That is the church who will love those around them, even as Christ does. That’s the church that will reach out to those that are broken, and minister to them, doing whatever it takes, for the broken come first.
The church, gathered, brought together to be in Christ, is something wonderful to behold. But it is not something that can be driven, It is something that is generated and kindled by God’s love. Can a leader set the example? Yes, but he cannot demand those who follow to toe the line, or force Christ-likedness.
Lord Have mercy on us!
(1) Hendri Nouwen, from Clowning in Rome (as cited in Celtic Daily Prayer, Aiden Readings 2/27)
Posted on February 27, 2014, in Devotions and tagged bishops, Church, church leadership, church polity, Church structure, Henri Nouwen, life, Ministry, pastors, priests, Spiritual growth. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.