Monday, 19 May 2014

Being Collared (6) - Building the Church

One of the challenges, especially in a Church setting, is for those who run things to become a little myopic and selfish and yet consider this to right and proper. I'd be immensely rich if I had a fiver for every leader, minister and member who has, in discussion over church, used a variation of the following words:

'Not bothered about the wider church, my job is to build the church where I am.'

Now, as much as I try I have never shifted a single one of them from this position and yet, rather ironically, not one of the proponent of this isolationist approach has been in a church that was flourishing. In fact the reality was the complete opposite in that they were diminishing and even floundering!

If you have a leader (pastor, priest, minister, parson or elder - it matters not what you call them) who is devoting, or much, of their energy into building up the wider church to the detriment of their own cure (meaning the place where they have responsibility for souls - not indicating illness of any sort*) then I can understand this will bring about some concern. But the reality is that we are to work to build the WHOLE Church (capital 'C' church = universal: lower case 'c' meaning the local manifestation in this context). We cannot live in isolation and we must bless the work, and members of the churches around usbecause this is our calling. Parochial is a system of providing local gatherings of Christians, not a lifestyle or mindset!

Now hear what I'm saying - not what you think I've said!

We must witness to those around us and seek to bring them into relationship with Jesus, the Christ, and those who follow Him. But we do it with integrity, seeking to build the Church first and our own piddling little expressions of it (for in comparison every local gathering is minuscule - even if there are hundreds of people in it) second. If we did this then perhaps we'd send people to a church that fits the bill for them rather than try to cling on to them.

Now before you suck air in through your teeth and start shaking your head, let me tell you that should you arrive where I am and want church that offers:
  • choirs and organs
  • high church
  • low church
  • traditional
  • contemporary
  • evangelical
  • liberal
  • charismatic
  • self-serving
  • isolationist
  • grumpy
  • flaky
  • shaky
  • big
  • small
  • caring
  • sharing
  • chocolate biscuits
  • something else
I'd know exactly where to send you - and send you we would**.

After all when we do this we are helping to build the Church and are displaying the reality of Church as a bunch of people in relation to each other rather than competing outlets of the Christian franchise.

When we do this I believe God sees that integrity and honours it and let's be honest here:
Should you have someone visit and attempt to cling onto them, even though they're not truly comfortable, you have won yourself someone who will never quite fit and making more work for yourself. Pass them on, get people who are the right fit for your outlet and then, as a happy little band of brothers and sisters, worship the Lord in the beauty of having a church that runs like a sewing machine rather than a jackhammer.

And those you have sent, because they are happy where they have landed have a warm feeling towards you and yours for having had the kindness to assist them in their search.

And those who lead the churches around you will be warm and friendly because what you say is what you are (WYSIWYA) and that makes unity a reality rather than a forlorn hope.

And God (who, even though I'm an Anglican, I am convinced exists) will bless and enable and quicken and inspire to do even greater things. For being faithful in the ones and twos when they come a looking will demonstrate how you can be trusted with the many (and if we have few - can we assign that totally to the place we're in without considering the people that we are?).

So here's a bit of a tough one today - one that (as a friend said recently) is probably 'rather rude'!

If it is - I'm afraid I can't apologise for it - because it is, I fear, also 'rather true' too!

So let's end on a. Lighter note shall we.

A Vicar walks into an opticians saying they think they need glasses. The optician takes them to the window and says, 'Look up at the sky, what can you see?'

The Vicar replies, 'Absolutely nothing at all!'

The optician responds, 'Yeah, I've been to your church and I didn't see the Son either!'

Happy Monday - let's go build Church

* Although come to think of it there are some for whom the illness bit might apply in some form or other

+even when it transpires that some have policies never to do the same for anything outside their walls - you know who you are and should repent before God comes done and has a chat: or is that why your numbers and fellowship is failing perhaps?

**Sadly of course that doesn't necessarily mean that they'd stay - but at least we've tried :-) The key is that we've done the right thing.


Gary Coleman said...

Amen brother...Kingdom focus wins every time....I blessings all round

Anonymous said...

The pastor's first responsibility is to build their own congregation. That's what they are paid for, not to do the work for other churches who can't be bothered to evangelize Nd attract others. It's fine to sit in the Church of England where you're paid and have a nice house and the bills met but when you're not that fortunate then the reality is very different.

I'm all for building the "Church" once I have my own sheep fed, cared for and secure - until then I will give what is fitting and right, not what you decide is right.

You build whatever you like and keep your views to yourself. You speak for no one but yourself and perhaps if you were less concerned with the wider. Church you'd have a bigger congregations yourself.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Oooh, some you win and some you don't :-)

Thank you both for your comments


John C said...

He He He, nice one Vicar!

Sounds like anon' is a bit of a wallie doesn't it?

Well done for speaking the truth and thanks for a great blog.

John C

Vic Van Den Bergh said...




Anonymous said...

Hear hear John C.


Soup D said...

The role of leaders is - as expressed in Ephesians 4 - 'to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ'

Question is, who are the Body of Christ? Is it our own congregation solely? or the wider church?

I am - unsurprisingly - with Vic on this one. Myopia is the curse of the church. Looking out for me and mine first and foremost does not really fit with the Gospel imperative.

Anonymous is expressing a view, which he is allowed to do. That same freedom allows Vic to express his opinions too, especially here on his own blog, which is visited by choice and not forced on anyone. So Anonymous appears mean and foolish. He is obviously not very familiar with Anglican ministry either. Our bills are met by no-one but ourselves. Amazing how many people believe that the CofE receives money from the government and that its ministers are living in luxury with no financial cares! If only :)

Anonymous does make a good point though, we cannot forsake our own sheep. We do need to ensure that they are fed, cared for and secure, so that they can then go out and do the works of service that God has called each of us to. (back to Eph 4)

RCJ said...

Easy words to write when you have a flourishing church but not so easy when you're in a small church with few people doing the work other than you.

Perhaps we should swap churches?

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Excellent idea


JonG said...

Hmmm. I certainly have to agree with Vic over comment #2, but I suspect that the generosity can be taken too far. Why does someone want a church with characteristic "x"? Is it because that is a more comfortable, cosy alternative to a place where they will face the possibility of meeting with the living God? To paraphrase your joke at the end, if someone wants a church where we know, or at least suspect that they are unlikely to find the Son, with his awkward challenges to our complacency, are we fulfilling our responsibility to the Church and to that person in assiting them in finding their cosy niche?

Soup D said...

Ah, RCJ, I think you might find little difference ;)

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

I have to agree Jon. If I am unsure about a place I send people to the nearest equivalent. I want to maintain personal and pastoral integrity :-)

Thanks for pointing that out,