Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Learning From Those With Whom We Disagree

During the month of May Scottsville Baptist is reading and studying Thom Rainer's "I am a Church Member." It was mailed to me by my mom the easter bunny who still sends goodies via US Postal Service every spring.  I might as well say it: I'm pro-Jesus and pro-bunny.  YOU try planning Holy Week services without a Peep or seven.  Let me know how that works.  

Rainer's book has been helpful to our church.  It is easy to understand and asks good questions.  Rainer encourages the church to approach church membership as gift.  He challenges us to embody a sacrificial attitude and not to blame others (whoever the others are).  It's a good book.  

Do I agree with all of it?  No.  In the chapter about praying for church leaders the pronoun 'he' is used exclusively to describe the pastor.  Is 'he' the main point of the book?  No.  Is it distracting?  Yes.  Can I still learn from the book?  Of course.

Here's the thing:  I want to be the kind of person who not only says she has an open mind; I actually want to have one.  I fail at this often, and sometimes I'm not good at listening to folks who don't affirm my call. But I want to be better.  Seriously.  

The polarization within Protestantism is staggering. How can we move forward if we're not willing to engage? We don't have to agree 100% to learn from each other.  The name-calling and unfair comparisons seem out of control.  Are we working toward reconciliation and movement forward for Christ?   

I told Scottsville Baptist folks to put 's' before 'he' and all will be well! The joke landed PTL and we moved on. Baptists can think for themselves after all (paging soul freedom, aisle two).  If an author who leans right or left (however such adjectives are measured!) helps point us to Jesus Christ, let's dig in and learn. (Of course it won't always be this simple, but can we try?)  Harvest the wheat and brush off the chaff. 

You might read the book and think it's not helpful.  That's fine.  I'm only hoping we can approach those with whom we disagree with an open mind and gentle spirit.  It's the only way to move forward.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

This Old House.

I love this old, creaking parsonage.  Every day her bones cry out loudly and without warning. She's settling in for the next hundred I suppose.  I've grown accustomed to her hollers. 

Her floors are hardwood and they were cool before hardwood floors were cool. Sometimes I think about the life they've held: Open houses, Christmas parties, difficult conversations, Sunday School dinners, move-in celebrations, and weddings (over 150!)...if floors could talk!

The tradition of old houses excite me.  It's true:  Some walls could come down. Some repairs are warranted.  Some updating could improve the value. But in the end, old houses are pretty great.  

I like new houses too.  Open concept kitchens, palatial bathrooms, and generous backyards are hard to beat.  It's true: Luxurious amenities aren't needs, but for a family of 6 more than 1 bathroom is...helpful!

In the end, new houses are pretty great too.  New houses account for modern sensibilities and suit the palate of a 2014 homeowner-to-be.   

Both new and old houses have the same basic goal:  Shelter.  Both have their charms.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Might this apply to church?

Like old and new houses, there is more than one way to "do" church.  Both new and old (should!) have the same heartbeat:  Jesus Christ is Lord!  

Yesterday our guest worship leader, Rachel Shultz, told me she is eager to come alongside traditional churches and experience with them newer expressions of worship.  She finds value in both old and new.  I like that.

Traditions shouldn't be cast aside simply because they are old or seemingly outdated.  Boo on those reasons.  At the same time new expressions shouldn't be eschewed simply because "we've never done it that way before."   Boo on those words.  Both new and old expressions of church have their gifts; why not learn from each other?

Both old and new can use renovations from time to time.  Lately I've decided to emphasize 'change' less because I don't think that's what the church needs.  I think what we all need is a holy kind of flexibility.  I think we all need to be malleable to the Holy Spirit.  I hope we are doing that. I hope I am doing that.

This month our theme is "Worship and the Arts" and we're opening ourselves to ways of worship different than our norm.  Thanks Scottsville Baptist for your willingness.  It is a joy to experience God with you in old and new ways.