Thursday, March 25, 2010

Forgotten Ways V

Tuesday I had the joy of sharing with our Residency (clergy in the commissioned process working toward ordination as a deacon or elder) group. I spoke on the topic of Rediscovering Apostolic Witness. My thesis is a farily simple one. Lay people assume clergy know how to share their faith. Clergy by in large don't and are often resistive to even doing so. I found the group both stimulating and exciting. They were all over the board on faith sharing; some wonderfuly active, others covertly opposed. Such witnessing is one of the crucial forgotten ways we must recover. The hunger which Hirsch (and others) write about is a direct hunger to experiece the lving Lord. People want to do more than know about God. They want to know God! In The Forgotten Ways HIrsch reaches to the heart of Apostlic Genius with this observation: "All geniune Christian movements involve at their spiritual ground zero a living encounter with the One True God 'through whom all things came and through whom we live' (I Cor. 8:6). A God who in the very moment of redeeming us claims us as his own through Jesus our Savior." (p.84) My hunch is that the popularity of such songs as "In Christ Alone" comes from their ability to help us embrace the real presence of the living Lord. Ultimately this hunger calls us into worship and leads us to the cross and beyond. Recovering apostolic witnessing is about sharing such an experience with gracefilled (and gracefull) effusive joy. It is an Easter experience.


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  2. I think many members of the clergy are more apprehensive about sharing their faith than the laity are because they have more to lose. We live in such a politically correct climate that the Gospel story is actually offensive to many people who have a secular orientation. I think that's why many ministers soft pedal the Gospel. Let's face it, if a minister alienates parishioners too much/ too often then that minister might find himself unemployed in much the same way that I have to be "careful" about providing the Christian Witness at my day job. This is a sad situation and I think many modern ministers feel as though they must be guarded about their theological views. Luckily, as a lay Christian I can candidly explain my relationship with Jesus and candidly provide a Christian apologetic to my listeners without fear of retribution. Our clergy need to grow in boldness but also we (laity) need to let them know that we support them when they candidly tell the "old old story."

  3. Bishop,

    Glad to see the blogging continues. I will send you an email in a few days about some of the thoughts we shared about blogging in general. In the meantime, thank you again for your leadership. Your passion has infected our conference. We give God thanks for your leadership.

  4. This is an interesting discussion. I have found that many ministers are reluctant to share their theological views on issues but do share the gospel if Jesus. I see a difference in sharing the hope of Jesus Christ and sharing a position on hot button topics. If clergy are resisting sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ then we need to look again at our call. I know Christians, believers, disciples, who have lots of different opinions on theological issues. but I see that as vastly different from their relationship with Jesus Christ.

  5. Allen,
    In my opinion, it's difficult if not impossible to share the Gospel story without discussing theology. When witnessing to the non-believers, they (non-believers) have lots of questions. (e.g. where do Methodists stand on once-saved-always-saved, when should I get baptized, what is the Trinity, is the Bible true, etc) If our clergy aren't prepared to candidly discuss things, then they will fail. And provided a waffle-laden murky answer doesn't cut it anymore. Fence-riding is very passé.


  6. That " hunger to experience the living Lord..." is why churches whose christology is clear - and clearly shared - flourish.

    Does this hunger call us into worship? For new and/or returning Christians, I question that immediate reality. They certainly want to *know* God; however, most have had an encounter (usually multiple) with the Church to make them question if what occurs during a "Service" will satisfy their appetite.

    What we in the Church and as the Church do this week may be our best opportunity to lead people into an experience of Jesus. May God find us faithful.

  7. Tex_method_101, I agree with you. But I still think that many of us are reluctant to share beliefs on the issues of the day for fear of retribution. I had an interesting discussion this morning about our church's social justice stance with regard to health insurance reform. My friend and I agreed to part as friends but in disagreement. You are right that you can't separate theology from gospel but I think many try to do that. the issues you raise are certainly in question with many un-believers but so is homosexuality, abortion, immigration and now health reform. These are more difficult for many ministers to discuss

  8. I heartily agree that this a kind of lost way that we must recover. We have discussed in our congregation (Cross Plains) how we can do a better job of evangelism, and I think our lack of comfort and practice in sharing our faith story is the major stumbling block among the laity. I am working on arranging multiple occasions when we get together and can work on that. Surely there will be no easier group for laity than each other to practice on, and if we can't tell each other, who shall we be able to tell? Perhaps we can make that a 10 minute part of every monthly covered dish gathering we have, with each table taking turns sharing, and requiring folks to change their table mates each month. If your blog readers have a way they have accomplished this goal, please let them share it! Such exercise would not hurt our clergy, either.

  9. Allen,

    We have to speak the Truth in love. (Eph. 4: 15)
    Homosexuality and abortion are sins. There's no room for disagreement on this. The Bible makes it crystal clear. Our Church has been playing the soft pedal on these issues for years and it's time we stop. It infuriates me that my tithe helps fund folks on the General Board of Church and Society to work against the Kingdom.