Eees not the Messiah part 7

You speak of strategy (I once heard a pastor say ‘We have to strategize for the Gospel’…I kid you not), big goals, winning the world, dynamic vision- in their place all good things; but you miss the little people. Worse still, you mentally see ‘them’ as ‘the little people’; they should be following your vision (which after all is God’s) and obeying. Even though you preach things like ‘God is interested in our uniqueness’, ‘all are precious’ etc, you only really socialise/see as equals others who have big goals.

Many of us face this temptation if we are in full time ministry; searching out and seeking only those who will give us reflected honour. It’s a human nature thing; I am driving to see a friend and I curse slow drivers and the cashier at the petrol station who took too long to serve me…’little people’ just get in the way. Here is a self-deprecating example from another blog http://bishopalan.blogspot.com/:-

‘Once upon a time an Urban PCC in theSouth of England was interviewing candidates for the post of Vicar. One willowy Anglo-Catholic youth made a big pitch for a shift up the candle — recalling the grand tradition of Anglo-Catholic slum clergy he said “what this place needs isn’t a leader, but a Priest!” Stirring stuff… until, quarter of an hour later a local bag lady with a skinful of cider but a heart of gold, crashed through the doors crowing, as was her wont, her signature line – “Help! I need a Priest!” Willowy Anglo-Catholic youth disappeared to the Toilet. He did not get the job’.

Part of the current issue with the camp outside St Paul’s in London seems to me to be that the church leaders in that place have forgotten the little people; running a major tourist attraction and networking with the movers and shakers (neither of which are wrong) has become so seductive that the real reasons for being there have been forgotten….the inconvenient truth of little people has got in the way.

Possible remedy: why not talk to and appreciate people you want to rush past today? Why not be still and remember: ‘I am also little, I am also insignificant’. Or why not make friends with someone who can give you nothing back? Jesus tended to do this….I know it is not much of a career option but it didn’t seem much like one 2000 years back- hopefully you won’t get crucified though…..

 

Peterson on a Sunday

Coming back to work today……

I think I have used this before: it is from Bonhoeffer:-

‘A preacher should not 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’. (p120).

Ignore the male specific language, but that should be a text drilled into pastors/vicars/priests and should be embossed on the walls of manses/vicarages/presbyteries…in my humble opinion at least…

A last bit of common sense

It really is cheating to use the same article 5 times. It takes unoriginality to a new height. This one is the last one; I promise.

Why I liked this article so much is that since I have been in this place, and it happened gradually, I have more friends who aren’t (by their own admission) Christian than those who are. This is the first time this has happened in my Christian experience and it is fantastic.  Even when I worked full time, my ‘third place’ was mainly church and church activities.

I don’t want to go back to how things were; one reason why I do not like the general Methodist pattern of moving every 5 years…..come in, get to know a few people, effectively talk about mission whilst not doing it, move on and start again. There is so much value in pastoring churches and having the space to be an ambassador within those communities.

The writer closes his article by saying this:-

‘I realized I too am an addict. I’m a bubble addict. I don’t like the bubble, and I know it’s bad for me, but for some reason I’m so tempted to go back to it—especially now.

Pastoring a church with a lot of needs on the inside has deeply challenged my commitment to passionately living outside the bubble.

There are many days when the things I need to do within the church take up all my time and energy. When those days string themselves together, I begin to fear I am reconstructing the bubble I worked so hard to escape.

I feel like a guy who loses 50 pounds and then eats a few cheeseburgers—I am terrified of destroying the good work the Spirit has done in me. I fear giving into my bubble addiction.’

Just now I like juggling preaching, funerals, running meetings, praying, visiting, whilst at the same time hanging around the shop, pub, playground, helping out at the village hall, helping to run a Beaver Scout colony, having meals with friends and doing incredibly bad acting. I wouldn’t say I am a genius or especially good at any of them, but I enjoy it!

‘Living outside the bubble, for pastors like me, is a day-by-day and sometimes minute-by-minute endeavor. Despite knowing it is best for us to live outside the bubble, we will always experience at least a little bit of an attraction back to its safety, comfort, and convenience’.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/summer/bubblewrapped.html?start=2

 

It’s a week for common sense.

Continuing with that article (it’s easy blogging- just cut and paste…).

‘Getting out of the Christian bubble may be most challenging for pastors, since we are charged with leading and caring for a Christian congregation. At the same time, it may be more important for pastors to get outside the bubble than for anyone else’.

It was this part that made me shout ‘yes’, ‘yes’, ‘yes’. I remember years back as a housing manager, rota-ing myself in for a stint on the cash tills. I wasn’t brilliant and the established staff did it better, but I wanted to experience what the people I managed were going through; how elese could I manage them effectively?

I don’t ‘manage’ a congregation (see my many posts, usually on a Monday re: ‘The Messiah Complex’) but I am charged with preaching every Sunday and asking questions like how is God present in ordinary lives, how can we be ‘little Christs’ in our relationships etc etc…. This article and quote reinforced in me the feeling that I can’t do that, however busy or intense church gets, if I stay safe in the bubble…

http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/summer/bubblewrapped.html

Common sense from last week…

I’m quoting at length from http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/summer/bubblewrapped.html. As that article hit me,  in the words of U2 at the end of the Rattle and Hum tour…. I am coming to the conclusion that I have reached the stage where I need to go away and dream it all up again…

I love this insight- it is very culturally American, but so, so true….and I know people in Britain who aspire and long for things like this.

‘In the bubble, your faith is seldom truly tested. As long as you know how to “look Christian,” no one is going to push you too hard. To be brutally honest, the bubble is an environment that allows people to be Christians without being tested to see if they can find their identity in Christ alone.

A while back I got a postcard advertising a new coffee shop in downtown Denver. The logo had a big cross in the middle and the tagline was “the best coffee, tea, and pastries this side of heaven.” The card trumpeted the opportunity to be in a “safe, Christian environment” that would only play Christian music, display Christian art, and host Christian groups.

I felt myself becoming angry. Part of my emotion was the sense that the cross was being used manipulatively to market a business venture. But I also sensed an attempt to bubble wrap Christians. Having a coffee shop like this made about as much sense as opening a Christian zoo so we could go look at monkeys without sharing space with those pesky non-Christians. It’s one thing to create spaces that serve as an opportunity for mission—I know people who open coffee shops with that in mind—but it’s another to create a space meant only for coffee-drinking Christians.

I wanted to get out a pin and start popping’.

Ee’s not the Messiah part 6

Today, not much prose, but a poem. It’s October half term round these parts and for the past 11 years, even pre kids, I have taken this week off. This poem says a lot about the self imposed stress that we place ourselves under with because we fear to let go or we just can’t stop.

In my very limited exposure to poetry, this poet is my favourite and not only because he writes and tours with Mratyn Joseph.

‘Though I created you to stop,

you have forgotten how to.

And having devised your own calendar

in which everything merges-

like oceans meeting, you are,

at present, afloat

and trading water constantly.

 

On the surface

nothing much is different,

the waves are unremarkable.

What you believe to be the

distant shoreline

is concealed by mist.

You say to yourself:

‘As soon as the palm trees are in view

I will swim to the fertile coast’.

 

Yet below your cycling limbs,

opposing currents duel and clash,

and you have not detected this turmoil.

And the undertow is carrying you

but you have not noticed.

 

And, like the shark,

you will now have to keep moving,

without rest.

You have no option-

the days you have invented

demand it.

 

But,

while you are moving,

the shoreline

will remain unseen.’

 

When the urge to control or keep moving pushes me to exhaustion, this poem almost moves me to tears. It is both sharp knife and remedy.

(‘No. 4’ taken from ‘Still facing Autumn’)

 

 

Sunday wisdom from the usual source…

Just back to work after spending a few days in http://thisfragiletent.wordpress.com/ ‘s excellent holiday annexe at Dunoon. I need some of Peterson’s wisdom.

He thinks and questions:-

‘Is pastoral work mostly a matter of putting  plastic flowers in people’s drab lives- well- intentioned attempts to brighten a bad scene, not totally without use, but not real in any substantive or living sense?’

…and if you have not wondered or thought that from time to time, then please check your pulse; you may not be living.

‘Many people think so, and most pastors have moments when they think so. If we think so often enough, we slowly but inexorably begin to adopt the majority opinion and shape our work to the expectations of people for whom God is not so much a person but a legend, who suppose  that the kingdom will be wonderful once we get past Armageddon, but we had best work right now on the terms that this world gives us, and who think that the Good News is nice- the way greeting card verse is nice- but in no way neccesary to everyday life in the way that a computer manual or a job description is.’ (p136).

Here’s to another week of attempting, with God’s help, to do things differently and to refuse to accept the labels put my way…