We should expect tension in our communities and learn how to face it with more confidence. In fact, we should learn how to introduce it in constructive ways that shift the burden and the opportunity of leadership off the pastor(s) and onto more leaders and potential leaders in the congregation.
What I realized through this conference is that we as Christians need to do a better job of understanding our own issues, before pointing our fingers at others’ religious issues. At the beginning of one of our table discussions, each participant was asked to share a personal story involving our encounter with a religion that was different than our own. This is the story I shared.
People need a place to give voice to truth, before God and everybody, and know that they are held in safety and love. Whether in or out of a church building, we need a community where healing and reconciliation mean more than appearances and convention, even if it goes off script . . . and especially if it challenges our expectations of what we paid to see.
Perhaps I have a simplistic view of the objections, but I believe it mostly boils down to a sense that “that was then and this is now – why should I take responsibility for the crimes committed by people who lived hundreds of years ago?” Here are some responses to that question.
That’s what church should be. A daily exercise in leadership development. The story of our faith in Scripture lays out a myriad of prophets, common folk getting things done, a community of people following Jesus and sharing the good news, scrappy early churches. We need people with the capacity to show up after their day (or night) jobs and be leaders. Our faith literally depends upon it.
Let me suggest an alternative telling of the covenant peoples’ story for today. We are not in exile in Babylon any more. We left years ago and didn’t notice. And we’re unsure about how to make our way home.
Today’s most popular contemporary myths and stories centering around power, and the right use vs. the abuse of power, mirror a similar theology of power presented in scripture.
It is my experience that whenever things go wrong, people frequently start looking for causes. They start looking for something to blame in order to cut the source of decline from their midst. But what if there is no one thing, or even no one, to blame?
Over the generations, prayer has shaped their common life together. To become part of this congregation means that you are committing to praying for the community and, perhaps even more difficult for some, you are willing to be prayed for.
Giving ourselves permission and invitation to ponder, we realized that as captivating as our originally conceived and fashioned VBS had been, it too had become a reliable, nearly institutionalized model. We began to ask ourselves the big wondering questions of how we could best use our time and energies both to strengthen the bonds within our church and to serve God and the community.