Monday, 27 April 2015

No such thing as a tradition-free church: part 2

One of the strengths I have found in our tradition is that we can have discipleship friendships in which we can share safely, in friendship and gently challenge one another for the purpose of personal and spiritual growth (of course, the system can be vulnerable to misuse, challenge one another for the purpose of getting them to see things the way we see them), even across local churches. I received a healthy challenge to reflect on: why do I go to [this] church - is it for me or for others? What is God's perspective on this issue, as opposed to mine? These are good albeit general questions to ask.

Am I looking for God's perspective? I believe I am. All the time. That is why I spend so much time trying to work out what is being said and believed in the first century, because I happen to believe that God's word does not change even if our circumstances do.

I actually suspect that my friend may have confused an issue here. When someone voluntarily leaves a community, it is right and normal for the leaders of that community to assess the reasons why the person is leaving. It could de-stabilise the rest of the group, for example. If the individual expresses some sense of dissatisfaction then a certain number of defence mechanisms may be triggered, because it is important for the leader to sense they are still doing a good job locally and that everyone still feels "OK".

One of the classic ones I have heard over and over again is to do with consumerist Christians. Christians that come to be served up exactly what they want, and if they do not get this then they move on, frustrated, leaving frustrated people and broken relationships behind them. Do they ask "what should I bring? What should I give?" This is another tradition that exists in our kind of church.

This simplistic explanation, however, should be handled with caution. The Kingdom of God is not only about giving. And it is not only about receiving, either. In January this year I was powerfully reminded of this fact. In the body of Christ we give and receive according to the various giftings.

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