Have a few miscellaneous thoughts floating around. Here goes:
1. I’ve been pondering the fact that the Bible was written to communities of believers. The original recipients of the Scripture heard it as a community, interpreted it as a community, and made application as a community. Yet I’m a product of a culture that elevates the individual and personal. I typically read the Bible alone, attempting to find the meaning for me, and figuring out how I’m going to apply it. I don’t know that this is all bad, but I do question my approach. I mean, if the Bible were written for a community, what am I missing when I read and process it as an individual? I’ve wondered how I can shift to a more communal approach to the reading and understanding of Scripture. In that musing, it dawned on me that maybe a good (and obvious) start is to read it in and with a community. We don’t do this very much. We evangelicals might be most guilty of this. For all our talk of reverence of the Bible, esteeming it as the “Word of God,” many (most?) of our churches spend very little time actually reading the Bible as part of our church services. Our liturgy seldom includes public reading and responding to Bible passages. What reference that is given is usually relegated to a verse or two sprinkled throughout the pastor’s sermon. Even then, Scripture is used to support what the pastor is saying, more so than the pastor reflecting on what the Bible is saying. The Bible is dissected into fragments and phrases, leaving it very vulnerable to forced meaning. It seems to me that to truly respect and honor the Scripture as God’s Word, we need to read whole passages and let the message come to us, allowing it to shape and form us. This seems to be preferred over the popular approach of us speaking and forcing the Bible (and only chosen portions at that) to support what we already want to say.
2. I’ve set in a couple of meetings recently where church leaders expressed their frustration over the commitment and involvement level of the congregation. Most of the frustration revolves around tying to get people to volunteer for the positions of lay ministry needed to carry on the structure of the church. Church people are as affected by consumerism as the rest of our population. Plus they stretch themselves to the limit with work demands and involving their kids in as many extracurricular activities (mostly sports) as they can. It’s the American way. The result is that folks don’t value putting energy into old paradigms of church structures. I came out of these meetings feeling depressed and discouraged. This brings to mind Jesus’ teaching about trying to put new wine into old wine skins. I came away doubting if we’ll ever be able to effectively motivate people to fill these positions. I have a hunch we church leaders and the congregations will be perpetually frustrated if we keep trying to do so. Perhaps we need to find new structures that are culturally relevant. I’m not sure what that looks like, and I wish I were smart enough to figure it out.
3. I conducted a workshop for pastors and church leaders this past week on conflict resolution. A wonderful group gathered to discuss this important topic. The shared wisdom was truly enriching. Here is a synopsis of my workshop and a few pictures to go along with. If you’re interested in me presenting it to your church, leadership team or group, let me know.
LEADERSHIP IN CONFLICT
Conflict is inevitable in church life, whether in the congregation, among the leadership, or both. Many tips and techniques have been developed to help us resolve conflict effectively. However, in the heat of the conflict when emotions are elevated, tips and techniques seem to go out the window. We barely remember what they are, much less how to follow them. This seminar focuses on a more fundamental and useful arena in conflict resolution—effective self-management of emotionality. Only when we maintain a calm, non-reactive and well-defined posture during conflict, can we provide real leadership during times of conflict. The presentation includes interactive learning activities as well as lecture.
I attend a Bible study nearly every Wednesday at 7:00 A.M. I have been a member of this “small community” of believers for about 7 years now…I believe God placed me in this group of believers because I was newly re-married, and everyone in the group at that time was older than me and they had all been married at least 20 years or longer. We have done different things in this group over the years, but about 4 years ago we decided to simplify things and simply agree to pick a book of scripture and study it by reading small sections each week and pull apart God’s word to get greater meaning from what we have read. I have spoken with Jim about the possibility of getting a similar group together at CCC. He explained to me some of the challenges to doing this, but I am still convinced there could be a way to get a group like this together. I would like to know your thoughts on this, given what you wrote her about interpreting God’s word in a “community” of believers.
I like that approach C.J. I think that is an effective and needed format for churches. Thanks.
Jeff, I have had similar reflections like you identify above, but only after stepping away from my position as pastor. It was interesting to me how strongly I had connected my feelings about people and their devotion to God and the Church when, in retrospect, I was questioning their devotion to me and the church (little ‘c’). It’s hard to get that separation when you’re in it, fighting for what feels like the very existence of the Kingdom’s presense in people’s lives. Looking at it now I see it as the difference between providing space for people to be in community instead of activities for them to be in attendance. Thanks for the post.
Thanks Andy. Good stuff. I appreciate your insight. I think you’re brilliant to distinguish between being in community and being in attendance.