The World Together blog : Congregational ministry
It happened again the other day. That predictable conversation that begins with, “So what do you do?” traverses through the awkward terrain where it is discovered that I belong to that most bizarre and incomprehensible of categories — “pastor” — thus placing myself outside the boundaries of ordinary humanity, and ends, inevitably, with a tortured query about what kind of creature, exactly, a Mennonite might be.
For those of you pastors fortunate enough to serve a congregation full of thoughtful, intelligent, “progressive” people … the Lord be with you.
Several times over the last few years I’ve heard statements like this: “Boyd may embrace an Anabaptist theology, but his church (Woodland Hills) cannot be, by definition, an Anabaptist church because an Anabaptist church can’t be a megachurch.” I’ve heard similar things about our sister church, the Meeting House, in Toronto.
During my morning walk today, I must have passed at least half a dozen church buildings, each one with its own sign facing the road. Most of these were the backlit type with replaceable plexiglass letters that could be rearranged to spell out a new message each week. It was interesting to read each sign as I passed. I felt like it gave me a glimpse into the character of each congregation — or at least of the person who was in charge of updating the message!
A Facebook friend and former member of a church I pastored a few years ago shared the following status, “I’ve got nothing against God; it’s his fan club I can’t stand.” Statements like this make me sad. Personally I am a huge believer in the church. Quite frankly I do not know how I could be a Christian without the support of a home church. But neither am I naïve. Too often the church is not a healthy place.
How do you welcome visitors in worship and make them feel at home?
But about the feuds and struggles that exist among you — where do you suppose they come from? Can’t you see that they arise from conflicting passions within yourselves? You crave for something and don’t get it, you are jealous and envious of what others have got and you don’t possess it yourselves. Consequently in your exasperated frustration you struggle and fight with one another. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit — you only want to satisfy your own desires (James 4:1-3).
I am quickly coming to a realization that I never thought I would: I think the name “Mennonite” does actually hinder our churches, but not for the reason that you probably think.
In the last generation of Western Christianity, we’ve seen a lot of new churches launch around a house church model instead of the “traditional” model. I use traditional in quotes because if you know Christian history, you know that the earliest church also operated on a house church model. In that case of course, it wasn’t so much a strategic model as it was a necessity since they were a minority of mostly poor people who were at times persecuted and at the very least consistently treated as outside the norm of Roman life.
What do we do in moments of stress and change? Some of us reach for a box of chocolates, others of us surf the Internet, pick up a good book or run a marathon. Some persons turn to pornography, alcohol, cigarettes and prescription drugs. Others of us — well, we just go fishing.