19 September 2006

Can a Brutha Get a Comment!?

Thanks to everyone who completed a survey on Sunday. The results should be helpful to the people who crafted it and are looking to use the data for some planning. A couple of surveys came in late and ended-up on my desk. One caught my eye. I had to blog about it.

The person who completed it had added a response to the responses about spiritual needs on the second side. Under the relationships section, they'd added "Relationship with CHRIST" noting parenthetically "(how could this be left off the survey?!)" I guess they didn't think that this was covered under the very next option: Spiritual Issues.

We are a church, for God's sake! Literally--we are a church so we exist for God's sake ("sake" means purpose, reason, motive, behalf, or benefit). We accomplish that by entering into an ongoing relationship with Jesus. This is the central, primary interest in everything that we do. I kinda think that that should be an obvious point that we're all clear about--not something that we would have been trying to find-out through a survey (if we had included that and people hadn't put it as #1, then we would have really had a problem!).

You could chalk this up to this person not seeing specific language that they expected to see. But, the additional comments spot made it clear that this was not the case, that there was more driving this addition. Continuing they wrote: "the survey seems to reflect the tenor of the church--more focus on human relationships and issues, on our behavior than our LORD."

It is true that recently we have been placing increased emphasis on how we live-out our relationship with God by (1) doing good deeds and (2) having healthy relationships with each other. The Bible speaks extensively and forcefully about both of these. Neither one is the primary thing--salvation through a relationship with God in Jesus is--but critical secondary concerns that reveal how the primary thing gets lived-out in our lives. This is one area where your ancient Jewish forerunners in faith were more on-target than we tend to be. Since the scriptures devote so much time and space to them, we are compelled to do the same (if you're not convinced, it's worth taking some time to study both concepts). In the past, I don't think we've given these their proper emphasis.

But, I hope this person and everyone else is clear about which thing is the priority. In fact, it was just last Sunday that I noted in both services that "if we'd put more focus on who we are, we wouldn't have to spend so much time trying to figure out what we're supposed to do." Behavior is not the critical issue. Understanding identity (through our relationship with God) and living the purpose that flows from it (expressed primarily in the doing of good works and building of restored relationships) is the work every Christ-follower is called to (sound like a recently discussed passage of Luke anyone?). Whether embodied in the Ten Commandments' directives for our relationships, or the Great Commandment's insistence that our right relationships with each other are part of loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, this is core stuff.

So, my hope is that this is clear. It's why our major studies the last two years have had Jesus as the obvious central emphasis (Hebrews' Jesus & ? & the According to Luke series). It's why our shorter studies have revolved around how we live life for or with God: Pilgrimage Songs (discipleship for life), Look In the Mirror (a church vision for God to expand His influence through us), Money/You/Your Heart (existing as God's stewards), Living a Resurrection Life (Sabbath-keeping, Lord's Supper, Baptism). It's why our reorganization of the Cell Groups is driven by Paul's word to Titus that our relationships with each other are a key expression of a response to salvation (Titus 3:3-11). And it's why our three newly forming ministries (Connections, Ordinary Attempts, and the Bridge Ministry) are being formed. It's also why I don't spend much time focusing on "issues" like "how to be a better parent" or "keys to a happy marriage" on Sundays--they aren't the first and most important concern.

That said, they do have a place in a church. I feel bad for this person already thinking we're doing too much on these matters, because I don't feel that we're doing enough yet. I don't think we give parents or couples enough guidance on those critical human relationships. We don't have any ministry that counsels single parents, people who are divorced, those struggling with addictions--all manner of human issues.

My hope and prayer is that in the future, we will all understand that these things are the critical ways by which our relationship with Christ grows and is revealed as deeper...more vital...more concrete, as surely as Bible study and prayer. As Jesus noted, how we treat each other is how He reckons we've treated Him (Mat. 25:44-46). Makes human relationships pretty important in my mind. I hope it does in yours too. In fact, I'd be reassured to know that it does by you leaving a comment to say so! Can a brutha get a comment!?


Catmctam said...

I think it would be great for a ministry or 2 to be developed to help with "human issues". While I agree with Chris that the Sunday service is and should be more focused towards our relationship with Christ, we shouldn't forget that the road to Heaven is full of "Pot Holes" and we need to be there to help pull each other out and change the flats.

Anonymous said...

Working on developing our relationship with both CHRIST and with others is the only way to bring us closer to becoming the fully functional followers that we were made to be

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that there is a danger when comments are solicited from a survey then used to bash the viewpoint (& the person) who was willing to take time to enter them. What a shame that a church that is claiming to be people-centered will take the comments of it's people, publish them, then ask for supporting comments of the view you desire. This polarizes a group that is designed to be united for the glory of God. It appears that our Pastor had a hot button touched & has chosen to sacrifice unity in order to be reassured. Giving priority to human issues doesn't mean much if the variety of humans involved are not listened to and valued.

etoc said...

anonymous-There's no personal bashing of this also anonymous person in the post. I'm taking them at face-value in their response and respecting them by substantively interacting with their critique. We're not only committed to being people-centered, but Bible-centered. Our unity is only good if it is founded in truth. The aim is not to polarize--the aim is to lay our thinking before God for His scrutiny and correction or affirmation. Sometimes that's a touchy thing because it may lead to the conclusion that we're wrong. But, facing that with a right heart and changing our thinking is something that we understand to be an act of worship. Getting it right according to God's Word IS a hot button for me--not being reassured that everyone agrees. My goal is open communication about it so that we're together in the right thing--even if that process can be uncomfortable. It would be disrespectful to ignore them or allow them to persist in biblically wrong-thinking. On that score, I also appreciate your comment for holding me to scrutiny too! Thanks for your input. Pastor Chris

Anonymous said...

I like the statement the"'road to heaven is full of potholes". I like that you are trying to involve more people with the different groups being introduced.
I have been coming to WCC for some time now but still feel as an 'outsider' sometimes. I would like to see a ministry for people like myself that dont fit into the traditional "neat" catagories that you offer. I feel it is very much the church's responsibility to address life issues. As a church we must be responsible for one another. And i love the blog and the surveys,etc. Thanks for reaching out Pastor Chris