I'm going to try and write myself into some clarity on this. If you've any thoughts to add, so as to help the old man, please chime in.
Do you ever think we've gone a little too far? For example, consider this statement: you can worship God anywhere; you don't have to be in a church building. The gist there is trying to say there are no unsacred places. You know what? I fully agree with that statement. Shucks, I've pealed that one forth from the pulpit before. But what if, just because we can worship God anywhere, it's not best to worship God just anywhere?
The poet Wendell Berry writes:
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
What if, just think a moment, what if it's best for us to worship God in sacred places, places that are not desecrated? I realize that may feel like semantical two-stepping I'm doing, but dance with me a moment, wouldja?
That what if? leads me to yet another: the Church is not a place; the Church is the people. Yea, I say thee verily, I've proclaimed that one loud and clear as well, trying to get the folks to stop thinking about the brick and mortar. Again, I fully believe that statement, I really do. But what if, just what if, the Church can be the people AND a place? At least as long as we're here on this dark and bloody planet? What if this it's only the people mentality harbors within it a refusal to fully be incarnate in this world? You know, that I'm just a passin' through, don't want to put down any roots, 'cause this world is not my home stuff. That stuff, as spiritual as it may sound, can, and I emphasize the word can, excuse you from really caring about much in this world, from the people to the rain forests to yourself; it allows you to throw stewardship out the window while whistling I'll fly away...
And one more here, so as to have three points. Mercy, this feels like a sermon. Sorry. But just one more: every person is a minister; the priesthood of believers. For all you reformers out there, I believe that, I really do. It's something that's been overlooked and underutilized for centuries. But if everyone's a minister, then what do ministers do? Better yet, what do pastors do? Wanna know what I'm thinking? Well, let me tell you. We've emphasized the reality that all are ministers to the point where the earth is flat, so to speak, in the church. In trying not to worship the man or woman up there behind the pulpit, we've thrown out the collar with the cassock. And what's a pastor/priest supposed to do when everyone's a minister? What flies into the vacuum created by diluting the gifts? Leadership - the word that far too many pastors and churches worship like a golden calf. Last time I checked, being a leader meant someone was following you.
Pastors are to break the bread and offer the wine, pray for the people when they cannot pray for themselves, hold the hands of the dying as the river calls their name, try with all they have to rightly divide the word of truth, comfort the people in times of trouble, and stuff like that. Not everyone is to do that stuff; not everyone wants to do that stuff. But when and if everyone can and should, then pastors guess that they need a BlackBerry and a posse that they're pouring their lives into and vision statements and gospel trajectories and a missional manifesto. You see, leadership looks like you're doing something. The work of a pastor sometimes, oftentimes, looks like you're doing nothing. Eugene Peterson titled that book The Unnecessary Pastor for a reason. Leadership will get you rave reviews on your annual elder-led evaluation. Pastoring, at worst, just might get you fired, and at best, will cause the elders to give you a list of improvement goals for the next year. Let's work on being a little more effective, John; try to be one of those, what do they call 'em? Yeah, influencers.
I'm still wrestling with this angel, so please bear with me. But I'm just not sure I'm liking everything that I'm seeing. All things are possible, but not all things are beneficial. I read that, somewhere.