Wouldn't you think we could all get along at church? I mean, aren't we all nice people? Don't we all want the same thing, ultimately?
Well, I have found the answer to these questions is, in order, No, No, and No.
Maybe I've started this post off on the wrong foot - I don't want to give the impression that we are engaged in great turmoil and everyone's up in arms about something. Mostly, things have calmed down since the drama I mentioned in the last post occurred. Let me back up a little.
One of the nuggets of wisdom I've been exposed to during our weekly discernment meetings is the importance of practicing indifference toward anything except for the will of God. It's more than just a matter of prioritizing concerns with God's will at the top, though I suppose you could think of it that way. The problem with prioritizing things when "doing God's will" is one of the items in your list is that it's so much more than just an item in a list. It goes to the very core of pretty much anything else you could put on the list. It defies boundaries, overlapping into every aspect of our lives, ideally.
It sounds nice, I suppose, but what does it really look like to put "indifference" into practice? I'm not entirely sure, since I have such a hard time doing it. But I think it means that we look to our mission as a church - in the United Methodist Church, it's been spelled out as "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Anything that aligns with this purpose should be lifted up as something good. Anything that undermines it should be purged. Anything else should not be given too much attention and energy.
The problem I have is that I have other priorities like:
- Being liked. Making decisions that don't make everyone happy puts this priority at risk. It's far easier to just accept the status quo.
- Being "successful." Success as we define it is not always congruent with what God wants for us. Sometimes we just want more people in worship or the best facilities or an award-winning choir or more money in the offering plate. All these are fine in and of themselves, and can be markers of success, but they are not themselves "success."
- Being comfortable. I want to get to a place where I have arrived as a fully mature person who has done all that he's supposed to have done and can now stop. I don't want to deal with my junk - my sinful nature, my bad habits and my hangups. Jesus accepts me as I am, so that should be good enough, right? Churches act this way corporately sometimes too.
- Working hard. Ironically, even though I just want to stop my transformation process and declare myself done, I have a nagging fear that I'm not working hard enough. For churches - sometimes we believe that all we need to do to turn this place around is to keep doing what we've always done, but everyone needs to work harder at it.
This is by no means a complete list, but you get the idea.
To get back to my initial questions about getting along - I think they're mostly the wrong questions to ask. We certainly want to get along and be kind to everyone. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings if we can help it. But we are not together as a body solely to make everyone feel good about themselves. We are together as a body to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We have to be indifferent to anything else. Fortunately, we serve a loving, gracious, and merciful God who transforms us into a community who loves one another if we are open to transformation. That is really good news.