Saturday, February 10, 2007

Authentic Church

This information is taken from the Church of the Nazarene Iron Sharpens Iron newsletter:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community lists seven expressions of ministry by which a Christian community may judge itself. Are these expressions understood values within your fellowship? The list looks like a seven week series of sermons . . .

1. The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue --We can combat evil thoughts effectively if we refuse to allow them to be expressed in words.
2. The Ministry of Meekness --(Romans 12:3) Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.
3. The Ministry of Listening --The first service we owe to others in the fellowship is listening to them.
4. The Ministry of Active Helpfulness --No one is too good for the meanest labor. By helping one another do menial chores together, we cement our fellowship.
5. The Ministry of Bearing (Supporting) --Your brother or sister may be a burden to you. We are called to forbear--to put up with one another. Non-Christians sidestep irritants. We embrace even difficult people.
6. The Ministry of Proclaiming --Within the fellowship, we proclaim God’s word to one another. Proclamation isn’t just an ordained function; we all speak His word.
7. The Ministry of Authority (Leadership) --Genuine spiritual authority is to be found only when the ministry of hearing, helping, bearing and proclaiming is carried out. Leadership without these expressions poisons the Christian community.
Look for these marks in your own life, and consider offering them to your small groups leaders for discussions that center around ways to develop unity and community within your church body.
Life Together , Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 91

I've been thinking lately about what kind of church body would be ideal for me. I know it sounds narcissistic, but the question of "fit" has been on my mind for the last couple of years. That, coupled with my Vocation of Ministry class at Asbury Theological Seminary, has me looking inward, which is not something I enjoy. I do it often, in an odd sort of self-flagellation like the monks of old, but I do not enjoy it.

My mind took me back to one of my favorite childhood books - Horton Hatches the Egg. In that story, Horton the Elephant gets roped into hatching an egg. And despite being misled, he refuses to give up on the task. The quote that stuck with me is this:I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent

What if we all lived by the first line of that statement? Imagine a church where we only say things that we mean. No platitudes just to get people to go away. No " I'll pray for you" when we have no intention of remembering the conversation. It would be refreshing for sure. A church where promises are not easily made but always kept. I know I am being idealistic here, but dream with me a little.

Now look at the second statement in the first line. Image a body of believers who communicate genuinely. Not one where we say one thing and do another. Instead of a body where we say "That will be fine" but inside seethe with resentment because we didn't get what we wanted, we have a group that says "I'd rather not" in gentle love and works toward a common solution. A world where our dreams, hopes hurts and fears are communicated truthfully and in love.

That is where I hope God sends me. If not, I'm OK. It's always a goal to work toward.

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