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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Pastor's Faith Crisis

Below is a church newsletter article published by my pastor in March. He is Doug Burford and is the pastor at Ward Parkway Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, MO. Thought I would share it here as well. Enjoy.

The Pastor's Faith Crisis... read on

Relax. The pastor is not doubting his faith.

I know Who I know and I wouldn’t trade Him for the emptiness of the world. But therein lies the problem. The institutional Church has, in many ways, traded Him for the emptiness of the world. Paul’s charge is still accurate: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. . . ” (Romans 1:25)

Since Constantine, the Church has “done church” in a way that has increasingly displaced God. Insidiously, created things have taken center stage. We may not bow down to them, but we “worship” them with our time, energy, concentration and gifts. They can become our “gods.”

Ever since the Church changed from a persecuted, fleeing band, which went about sharing their faith, loving one another and sharing their possessions with those in need, the Church has become increasingly weighed down with a myriad of peripherals. The more those peripherals become central, the fewer resources are left over for the things the Church did at first.

Thus, going out into the world has been replaced by Christians coming into a building; spontaneous heartfelt prayer has been replaced by liturgies written by “professionals.” Spirit-led songs have been replaced by “good music” sometimes produced by unbelievers. Being in the world but not of the world has been replaced by being of the world while being secluded from it. We have distracted ourselves with “services,” process, debates, bulletins, monthly newsletters (like this one), buildings, décor, office machines, minutes, reports, budgets, congregational or denominational sub-issues, etc. ... all of which the Church could do without and probably be stronger for it. Without them, there would be nothing to focus on but Christ who binds us together . . . His Word, His Spirit, one another and those not yet a part of Christ’s body.

No wonder I’ve been frustrated for 15 years of ministry, here and elsewhere.

Too much of what has demanded my time as a pastor has not resulted in lives changed by Jesus Christ. The Truth has been exchanged for a lie; created things have been worshiped while Christ has to ask for time when we’re done with our business.

Realistically, we can’t get rid of the peripherals, but we can name them such and displace them as priorities. They’re not evil, in themselves, but they can become ends in themselves, rather than means to an end. We must constantly reign in all things and subject them to Christ as central to all we do. Thankfully, the session is praying more . . . our primary responsibility as elders. I look for more such changes.

I don’t know all the solutions to the above observations. Like I said, I’m in a crisis. But, I’m working on it. Pray for me. Pray with me. Pray with and for the session.

What do I hope will result? The following:

† Prayer. The kind where everyone comes together and prays without script. The kind where the Holy Spirit leads.

† Worship. Worship that focuses completely on God rather than on bulletins, atmosphere, grammar or decorum. Worship is not something we do on Sunday morning in a “sanctuary.” Worship is a posture of life. Worship is every day in every way. Sunday morning is just a reminder, an equipping, a recharging of our spiritual batteries for worship.

† Discipleship. No apprentice ever learned a trade by meeting once a week and standing in place. An apprentice walks with, shadows, watches and learns from a mentor he or she is with almost constantly. That is the model Jesus left us as He poured His life into His disciples. He rejected the religiosity of His day because it had become dead and ineffective. Our small groups and unfolding discipleship efforts seek to regain what the Church has lost in disciple-making and replaced with religiosity. Making disciples is the charge Christ gave to the Church.

† Relationships. Ekklesia means “gathering.” Yet, Sunday morning worship does everything possible to keep us apart, separated and isolated from one another during “worship.” The transforming power of Christ rarely is evident in worship. Why? Because God does the work of transformation in relationships — with Himself and with people. God uses genuine human interaction in which He is the Center through His Word and Spirit. As people share with one another what they are hearing from the Lord through Word and Spirit, genuine Christian community and growth is experienced. The Church of today needs to find a way to allow for that during our ekklesias. Small groups are one way. Wednesday evenings can be another way, though work remains to be done. Maybe even Sunday mornings can be reclaimed as gatherings in which God is present with His people in interactive ways.

The above need to be central because Christ is central and these are means by which He works. The above must replace the rubric imposed on the Church, by which Christ often does His best work after we’re done with “worship.”


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