Last weekend I went to Abilene to spend time with my friends. Last Sunday we left early in the morning and headed to DFW so that we could go with a friend to the church she was working for. After that we had lunch and then went to watch the Rangers play the Mets. Because of all of this traveling, I was unable to blog. Finding myself with a little bit of time this morning (there will be mayhem later as my entire family arrives for Independence Day weekend) I figured I could blog.
While I was in Abilene I spent some time talking to my friend Annie about my job. I currently work as an intern with First Colony Church of Christ’s Children’s Ministry (or FCCCM) in Sugar Land, TX. The discussion got around to the different ways that different churches do things. I admit that I was lamenting, a bit, that First Colony isn’t just like Beltway. Annie then ordered me to read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in which Bonhoeffer walks through what living life in Christian community looks like. A passage that sticks clearly in my mind these days is
“A pastor should never complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish- dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he might not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God” (p.p. 29-30)
This is particularly striking to me as someone in a ministry position. I have what Bonhoeffer calls a “wish-dream.” That is, I have this ideal in my mind of what church should be, do, or look like. But, in trying to promote my “wish-dream” I ignore the reality of people and their circumstances. My particular “wish-dream” is for organic community born out of genuine relationships with other people centered on the cross of Christ. I lament the lack of passion, depth, and urgency at First Colony. I lament the apathy and the consumerism surrounding people. I hate the program centered way ministry is done. But, this is my “wish-dream.” In Abilene I am part of an organic community centered on the cross of Christ that possesses an urgency and a passion. We avoid a consumer mentality when it comes to church and we never feel like we have to put on airs. This, though, is a “wish-dream” when exported somewhere else without contextualization. This is not to say that I should sacrifice my ideals. I shouldn’t and I won’t, but it is to say that I cannot simply transport my way of doing things, my community, my church from Abilene to Sugar Land. There is a place for the prophetic voice to challenge the church back into the narrow way, but that challenge must meet people where they are.
Something the executive minister at First Colony told me the other day when I was lamenting the lack of parent involvement with out kids was “You can’t treat parents like enemies. They are broken too.” I suppose that’s right. And, so long as we’re all being honest, I’m broken as well.