In ministry I have found that the pendulum is always swinging. I haven’t been at this too long but the biggest thing I think I have learned in ministry is to be very careful and aware of the pendulum. In ministry it moves form one side to the other and that balance is very important in everything we do as Christians. When we focus on one side or the other we get a push back and swing side to side. Often my biggest mistakes were when I focused too much on something in reaction to something else.
The pendulum I have seen swinging back now is about the Church and what it is here to do. Another way to put it is outward vs. inward focused churches. Their seems to be two camps especially in the Lutheran Church but I see it in the greater church as well. There is the the idea of being a church the focus’ on its own people and a church that focus’ on those outside of the Church. The inside people could care less about anyone who isn’t a member and those who want to focus on the outside group tend to want to focus on always reaching out and being a part of the community.
I want to be clear that both have merits and I think Jesus talks about them a great deal in Matthew 28 when he tells us to go and make disciples. The one thing a Pastor friend of mine says is “God tells us the one thing we must do as a church is make disciples by baptizing and teaching the word of God. Everything else we do in ministry is because we as a congregation have decided it is for the good of the people for the purpose of making disciples.” I tend to agree and think maybe the people who are all about mission have pushed the pendulum too far to one side.
I have seen this quote often and for the moment I want to talk about it. “If your Church disappeared tomorrow would anyone in your community care?” The implication most often is what are you doing to help your community? The answer normally seems to be nothing and that you need to do something that is a need; tutoring, mentoring, food bank etc. While these are all good endeavors I don’t think it matters if anyone in community notices if we do these things. I sometimes wonder if our goal with these things is to get our name in the paper so everyone knows such and such a Church. If all they know is our work maybe that isn’t the best way to share with them about the work done for us in Christ. I know for me that I do these things to serve my neighbor so I can give people a glimpse of a gracious God who came to serve them. I can do good works and they are good but they are not what Christianity is all about that is just a part of my faith. I think we can be so focused on doing things in the community that we are lax in our understanding of the faith. As James says faith without works is dead I would also say works without faith is also dead.
I think the Church as two purposes sharing the good news and learning about the good news for ourselves. When we push one side to the detriment of the other we lose our middle ground and the pendulum starts to push back the other way. For me I want some balance. I want to be a part of a Church that reaches out to the community but also focus’ as much attention and gusto into diving into the scriptures, worship and learning about this amazing God that we have. What do you think?