Emergent Brethren » 2008 » March

Archive for March, 2008

Easter

Lent Devotions

The church I attend has a blog set-up with different people writing daily devotions for Lent. I was asked to write the devotions for this week. For your enjoyment, I’ll post them here as well.
Palm Sunday Devotion
Monday Lent Devotion
Tuesday Lent Devotions
Wednesday Lent Devotions
Thursday Lent Devotions
Good Friday Lent Devotions
Saturday Lent Devotions

Change!?!, Decline/Growth, Leadership, Ministry Formation, Young Adults

My money, my mouth

In the year that I’ve ministered with the Pomona Fellowship, I have gone through quite a bit of evolution in my beliefs, although mostly with regard to ecclesiology. As a result, I have recaptured a passion for ministry that I haven’t had since my first years in seminary. But that passion has also transformed me into a bit of a throwback to the earliest Brethren. That first group of believers was economically communal, intentionally peaceful, and socially, egalitarian. They had no paid ministers, no cathedrals, no choirs or complicated liturgy. By these distinctions, they created ‘another way’ of Christian community, modeled not on the institutional church of their day, but instead on the church of New Testament.

What I have written below is part of what I have come to believe. It is not intended as a slight against my friends and colleagues in full-time ministry. Rather, please read what follows as a primer on what I think the future holds for the generations emerging in the larger church of Jesus Christ. Of course, as always, this is only one man’s opinion. Search your hearts, search the scriptures, and decide for yourselves if the ideas below comport with the teachings of New Testament.

A trend has been sweeping through The Church of the Brethren for over 100 years. It’s as if someone abducted nearly every church leader and reprogrammed their minds with the logic that argues, “If you have a deep serious relationship to Jesus Christ, you should become a full time pastor or missionary.” It’s so automatic that it’s scary. Against the backdrop of our declining churches and the fewer and fewer folk who file in every Sunday, anyone whose spiritual health rises above the level of comatose is instantly encouraged to pursue vocational ministry.

It doesn’t seem to matter that God may have strategically placed them within their own unique culture and community, with a career (potential or progressing) that could amply provide for their family, and put them in touch with people who don’t know Christ. No one tells them about Paul’s clear instruction that the new birth should not affect a person’s current vocation.

He says it three times, so how do we miss this?

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now. For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments. Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24, NLT)

But we know our recent traditions better than the ancient Scripture; so the world is drained of our brightest most energetic leaders, and the secular workplace ends up missing those truly gifted to be examples of The Faith.

I’m convinced that we have such an artificial system of “church” that most of us can’t even process Paul’s logic. We have created a mythical category of Christian service known as “full-time ministry” supported by an un-biblical clergy/laity division within the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians Paul catalogs the leadership roles of the church. There he lists apostle, prophet, evangelist, and teacher as essential for a healthy Christian community. But because they’re paid a full-time salary, most parishioners expect a full-time pastor to have all these gifts. Unfortunately, none of them do, and so our churches are robbed of the spiritual leadership they need and deserve.

I’m not suggesting that we ‘muzzle the ox’, people don’t value what they don’t pay for, and theological education is expensive. But a prophet is not a prophet if he is beholden to those that pay him. Courageous honesty is just too easily corrupted when you’re worried about your mortgage or whether or not you can afford to retire. Leaders like that neither make waves nor disciples.

Freedom to tell the truth is the key to leader-like, leadership. Absent that, everything that matters will be absent; no apostles, no prophets, no evangelists, no teachers; just sad, scared, scrambling ministers all too aware of their own limitations. What we need is a revolution of thought. A new paradigm that opens the pulpit to a multiplicity of voices, and frees our ministers to live as a citizen missionaries.