Monday, October 20, 2008

Decently And In Order

Thanks to Amy, I am rereading a book that I read a few years ago and really liked. It is a book that ought to be required reading at every one of our Seminaries. The book is Ministry Loves Company: A Survival Guide for Pastors by John Galloway, Jr. I actually think I will make a note to myself to read this book at least every year or two—it is that insightful.

There is a passage in the introduction that is worth repeating here.
“One of the reasons our denominations have declined is that we are dying of sanity. We are terribly rational. We are programmed. We just don’t get funky and say shocking things or take chances or run risks or see a new opportunity and run headlong for it. We do things decently and in order. And, oh my goodness, are we sane! Did you ever stop to think that the place that most exudes doing it decently and in order is the local cemetery? The people who manage it have their procedures down pat. New members are received in solemn ceremonies. An organizational chart on the office wall explains in detail where all the members stand (OK, lie) in relation to all the other members. There are no conflicts. Nobody ever encroaches on (or under) anyone else’s turf. People don’t quit and join another cemetery. They are all in their proper place every Sunday. Everyone knows his or her place and stays in it. It is the most decently and in order place in town. There just isn’t a whole lot of life there.”

Obviously there is more to what we ought to be than just decent and in order! We need to also be a people of vision and action. We need to do more than just read the Word (if indeed we are doing that) we need to DO WHAT IT SAYS! James tells us that. I believe one of the reasons James gets overlooked by many people is that it gives us simple, practical advice on how to be what God wants us to be, and we really don’t want to be that radical.

Truly following God is radical. Taking care of orphans, widows, the poor and sick is not flashy, but it is required. We spend way too much time working on textual criticism, form criticism, rhetorical criticism, source criticism, and the rest of the criticisms. We take apart words and put them back together to have them say what we want them to say. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in proper exegesis of the text, but what I don’t believe in is exegeting to the point that we totally forget what the passage is truly trying to tell us! Rather than working hard to find a way to make the passage say what we want it to say, maybe it is time to let the Word be the Word and do what it says!

We need men and women of vision, who are willing to let the Spirit and the Word direct them, to lead our churches and our denomination. The time is long past for petty squabbles and nit picking. The time is NOW to get busy about doing our Father’s work! In the words of James, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Well, how about you? Are you going to stick to doing things decently and in order or are you willing to be led by the Spirit and the Word? I am.

1 comment:

Amy Florence said...

Well, you know me, I like things decently and in order! But, I also understand (and agree) with what you are saying. That was one thing I really liked when we read through the book of Job and some of Paul's epistles in one sitting. It helps you understand the story or the letter better than when you take it apart, bit by bit.