Sunday, August 1, 2010

Business as Usual ... ?

Everyone knows the Church of God Reformation Movement began, at least in part, as a reform toward church unity, and as a reaction away from stifling denominational bureaucracy. Patrick Nachtigall suggests “as with the early pioneers, nobody in ministry today really wants to be part of an inflexible bureaucracy” (Mosaic/111).

In an interview with Ministries Council Member Bob Moss, Patrick shares Bob’s suggesting we no longer have a real sense of mission (one you could write on a 3 x 5 card in a sentence). Moss claims the best recognized voices of the Movement have gradually fallen quiet, like the demise of the Gospel Trumpet magazine, the voice of the church. Patrick surmises, “But as the movement grew, so did the spirit of autonomy.”

There’s that word “autonomy.“ It catches my attention when Bob Moss declares “At the General Assembly level is where I see disengagement at its worst” (Mosaic/113). I have observed that since entering pastoral ministry in 1951. I observed inadequate and distorted information (to say the least) disseminated to the General Assembly. I‘ve watched disengagement by fellow pastors who went to Anderson but complained that “GA was only a business meeting,” and skipped it and spent their time visiting (failing to represent the congregations that in many cases paid their way!

As a pastor, I often heard this libertarian (anarchical) view expressed in relation to GA budget items, especially Global Missions. I suggest the reason we have the current missionary support system that we have is because too many pastors felt it their right to pick and choose what they wanted to support and ignore. Many withheld support of institutional agenda (like Pensions for example), although it benefited them it was NOT “foreign” missions. Pastors were not happy when their favorite projects didn’t receive enough. Of course, the churches followed their leaders accordingly.

I have observed such bickering for decades--anti institution pick-and-choose. THEN, we streamlined our national organization. We tightened and shrunk it to minimize competition and turf wars developing through the years (we wanted to be lean and mean). We appointed a Chief Administrator to oversee and rally us together, but note what happened.

The first Administrator didn’t please enough people; he was too far out, too liberal, too expensive, too visionary; too something; now we have a man elected to a position nobody in his right mind would have. When he listens to us and attempts to draw us into conversation regarding our covenantal relationship as the Body of Christ, we interpret that to mean he is “making us a denomination ” and if things go too far “I’m out of here!”

We insist that “we are an autonomous body,” (and we are if you mean we have no Bishop telling us what we believe and how to behave as congregations etc). But, if you consider our core teachings on “unity” and the church as the “Body of Christ,” what did Paul mean when he portrayed us as a body interrelated to each other, with many organs but one body? We may not practice Methodist Connectionalism, but neither do we believe in total autonomy.

I am not yet convinced that “Anderson” fully understands their obligations in two-way communications; it usually seems pretty much one way--theirs, even if they listen. On the other hand, neither do I view “Chog Ministries” as a mysterious controlling entity that is determined to transform us into a denomination, tell us how to divide our monies, and determine how much we must give in support (if they are, they just as well forget it, for it will never happen). My experience is that “They” are only trying to help us (all of us) do what we need to be doing mutually as the Body of Christ.

No one in Anderson is trying to denominationalize, nor are they wanting to tell us how much our cooperative support must be. Under the Mind of Our Lord, we are NOT AUTONOMOUS organs (that would be suicide) - we are MUTUALLY INTERRELATED AND INTER-DEPENDENT. Ed Foggs tried to help us understand this for twenty years before he retired.

I do believe “Anderson” BADLY HANDLED the building of Warner Auditorium, the demise of Warner Press, and the debacle at Church Extension, although the church itself never accepted its full share of blame. As for Patrick Nachtigall’s book, Mosaic could be summarized in a couple of points. 1) As long as there are lost people with broken lives that God loves, we have a mission to fulfill (not our mission, but God’s mission according to John 3:16). 2) As long as there are people living unhealthy and unholy lives, and existing in brokenness and dividedness, we have a message of holiness (wholeness) and unity to share with them--until Jesus comes.

Christ said he would build his church, so that is not our job, but we have a heap of kingdom living to live up to. While we work at our structural relationships for facilitating our work, let us give thanks for progress made and give heed to Paul’s admonition: To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19, KJV).

Even if we maximize our engagement, there is still little danger that we will run out of the Lord’s work before he returns. However, I don't see us acting as if we realy are on mission; it is too much business as usual.
From Warner’s World, this is

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