Sunday, 9 June 2013

I'm (not) talking to the puppets!

One evening a Manchester United fan went into a pub' and found there was entertainment in the shape of a comedian on the stage at the end of the bar. Buying himself a drink he took his place in the crowd and watched as the comedian made them laugh at his witty, and often acerbic  observations of life and its oddities. To great applause the comedian left the stage to be replaced by the next act, a ventriloquist who very soon had the people roaring their approval.

As the act progressed the vent' engaged the dummy, who had a Man City scarf around his neck, on the subject of football and football fans and some were mindless morons. As the conversation unfolded the dummy made more and more derogatory comments about Man U and its supporters until, being unable to bear it any longer, our Man U fan pushed his way through the crowd and shouted, 'That's it, I've had enough about you saying Man U fans are stupid mindless morons, outside!'

The Ventriloquist stopped in mid-sentence and said, 'But mate, it's only a joke, you don't want to fight me!'

'No I don't want to fight you,' said the Man U fan, 'I'm talking to the little bloke on your knee!'

Being a puppet or ventriloquist doll is a simple existence because you merely do what the puppeteer or ventriloquist makes you do and the responsibility for what is said or done lies firmly on their shoulders - obvious statement innit? What appears to be less obvious is the fact that so many of my colleagues appear to forget that what so many of the congregation members do is down to them in exactly the same way!

Let me explain:

I have recently come across some clergy whose beliefs border on folk religion rather than the relationship that comes from reading the Bible and living with, and seeking to look like, Christ and this has transferred to the people. The reason for this is a spiritual as well as obvious practical in in that what we release in the spiritual realms as leaders will surely come to pass in the membership of our churches. What we do, say and teach will shape the understanding and attitudes of the people, this is obvious BUT the spiritual element is more subtle and potentially more damaging.

I am struggling to illustrate this specifically because I don't want to wound some of those I know (having already mentioned the topic to them privately) but do feel the need to draw attention to the potentials. Here's a few from far enough back that I make the point but wound none (for we are told to 'restore gently' and I want that to be who I am):

A church I visited had seen its giving dry up and after a bit of a chat to the ministry team found that the a couple of the leading lay people (we'd call them 'Wardens' in the CofE) had stopped giving because they didn't agree with the pastor. Once issues were addressed and a right attitude restored things improved!

A minister who was caught up in sexual immorality was at the helm of a church where incidents of adultery and divorce were a regular happening. He stopped, they stopped!

A congregation were into scattering salt around the church building to 'ward off' evil spirits because that was what they'd been taught. Every Sunday they'd 'clean the church' and 'drive out satan' because this is what those in leadership had taught them was right.  Teaching that we were in fear of the prowling lion that is satan and worrying about way he might attack the church led to people who were fearful rather than living in the victory of the cross.

The reality is that leaders can communicate in more ways than verbal and it's what isn't said as much as is, and what and how they live, that puts words onto the members lips and manifests as actions in their lives.

Read it in the Bible - Preach it in the pulpit - Live it in our lives - Love as Jesus loves

If we get this right then we can rejoice that the war is won and engage in the battles that remain with confidence that we're all working together for the same cause and rejoice - because He's coming soon ;-)


UKViewer said...

I have no experience of the things that you speak off, but I do note a tendency to downplay Satan or the Devil or Lucifer which is the personification of evil that we have created.

Lots of teaching (from some) seems to reflect that evil is only an illusion and the opposite of good, rather than that evil will flourish where good people standby and do nothing.

There is an argument in my view for teaching while not overegging the cake, to stress that evil does exist and that we ignore or downgrade it at the peril of our immortal souls.

I'm thinking of the small, seemingly inconsequential things in our lives. Where we ignore need, where we are selfish in our giving, where we criticise without offering constructive support. Those occasions when we turn a blind eye to wrong doing, because we either don't have the moral courage to face it down or to do something about it.

I know that I've been guilty of all of these in the past, and have repented - but I know that the inherent character weakness exists (I'm only human) which could allow them to recur if I don't guard against them.

And, small things can lead into bigger things. The question is how can we live a life of purity and self restraint in a world, where all around us these gifts are ignored or denigrated as being for others 'not for me - I come first'.

Jesus never said that being a disciple would be easy, but simple morality and integrity are at the centre of his teaching - and sometimes they go to the wall in the interests of the so called 'greater good'.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

We should never forget that satan is there but the danger is that we give him so much credence and assign so much power and authority to him that we end up worshipping him in reverse.

Many, hoping to look enlightened, seek to ignore and even deny that there is a force in opposition to God and this is foolhardy indeed.

Thanks for comments,