I sit and listen to all the causes and complaints my Church has, all the resolutions put forth at Annual Conference and those that will come to General Conference, and I find myself overwhelmed. There is so much going on, so many emphases that it gets so hard to follow. I can’t keep it all straight and I actually want to! Are we welcoming or reconciling? Are we growing or condemning? Are we for or against? We seem to be going in so many directions at once, pulled by many different causes. We are a passionate people, but our passions seem to be all over the map. Have we just become passionate about being passionate? I feel this intense need to get back to basics before we lose ourselves in our causes.
The more I sit here, the more I envision a giant hydra. We want to fight the forces of evil and oppression in this world, so we direct a piece of us, our resources and labor, to this cause and that cause, until there’s an arm of the Church waging battle here and there and everywhere. Sometimes the heads lose connection with the body and start to attack other heads, even the body out of which it grew! There are so many calls against things, so many resolutions calling for a cessation of things. I have a book almost 160 pages in length just to make sure I don’t forget anything, but the language is legalistic and the background, the theology that inspired it, glaringly absent replaced with rationale.
Can we realistically expect to do all of this well? With our gifts, our time, and our talents spread so broadly that we thin ourselves out to cover distance in the world of culture, society, and politics, can we honestly expect to do something well, much less completely? We have managed to complicate things to the point that we turn people off. We push away those who thought this was supposed to be all about Jesus, and it is, sort of. I know that those who champion each cause do it with a heart full of the love of their Lord and Savior. I know they want to do what is right. They hear the Biblical call to “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and strive to live that out. I understand and admire that, but when we are experiencing a struggle to stay a vibrant, growing Church, then a time must come when we refocus.
Why can’t we get back to our first call as the Church: spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What if we decided for the next year to start again, from the beginning? What if we focused on the Gospel, teaching it, preaching it, living it at the local church level? What if we put all this time and effort back into making disciples for Jesus Christ who want to live their faith every day of the week instead of writing policy and appealing to legislatures on the state and federal level? What if we trusted those same disciples to act out their faith, to vote according to their Christian conscience on issues of environment, death penalty, equality in work, etc. so the Church doesn’t have to do it for them? Might we find that we are more effective in the long run? We could become the Church of empowering, the Church of living faith, instead of the Church of resolving and debating. Perhaps more lay people would want to come to Annual Conference. Perhaps more clergy would gladly take their rightful place in the ranks of those who participate. Perhaps we would have clarity and cohesion because our one shout is “Jesus is Lord!” and we do it with one voice, united once more. Or we can keep growing heads until none of us can see our Body of Christ that was supposed to be our ground, standing on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
I close my eyes and I pray:
O God who orders chaos,
What must we look like to you?
With words of discouragement, anger, apathy,
Filling the air we breathe.
Our bodies slump in our seats,
Our ears close to the noise of debate.
Refill us with a sense of joy and hope.
Let the Holy Spirit in this place blaze forth.
Show us your ways once more, O Lord.
Remind us what you call us to be first;
Disciples who love the Lord with all our might.
Let us first worship you.
Then feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned.
When we find that we do all of that well,
Lead us forward to other realms of justice and mercy.
Let us not be clanging gongs,
But a chorus of those who sing our faith in Jesus Christ.
Do not let us become lost in ourselves,
When we were first found in you.