Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Time to talk of God

Good morning God,

Thanks for the new day, do you mind if we pick up on an old subject to discuss? You see, I need to understand how people who believe in God, passionately, can be encouraged, enabled and released to talk of God as well.

Ironically (providentially?) the same Conference that discussed the predominantly secular description of Church oversight also received a report entitled 'Time to talk of God'.
Its not hard to see which of the two reports was adopted in practice if not in Conference.
It's a big problem, because if the Church doesn't seem able to speak of God whilst still going about its business, what does that say to the public - leave alone the membership?

To quote from the flyer that the Church did to promote the Time to Talk of God report

'The exercise of seeking God and learning how to love and serve God in our lives is deeply attractive, but also perhaps quite frightening. So it is that the Church, which exists to support that search, that love and that service, somehow manages to frustrate its own ends by providing a culture where conversation around this most important of topics is effectively, if unconsciously, blocked in a variety of ways:'

Although not intended as such, that report now has a frighteningly prophetic ring.

But what to do about it God?
Sadly it would appear that has not possible to critique the culture without it seeming to some of your people that I am questioning their faith.. That is deeply regrettable, but I believe this is too important for such misunderstandings to once again block the conversation about YOU God, and how as a church we do or don't talk about YOU amongst ourselves and to the wider world...
Lest there be any mistake - let me make it clear God, I am convinced that it's not the people we need to change. We need to change our prevailing Church culture and in particular our way of talking about your work God. There seems to be a belief that to be efficient at being Church, to be 'professional' at being prophetic we have to somehow be blatantly secular about the sacred. Well help me out here God if I'm wrong but I can find nothing in Scripture or in our tradition, nor in my experience or by my reasoning which makes me believe that to be true.

You taught us as Methodists, God, to believe the 'business' of the Church to be a means of grace, not a necessary evil. It is what enables the church as a whole to grow in grace and holiness. As a people therefore we have not been ashamed or embarrassed by the need for good order, especially not as an expression of a 'rule of life', a disciplined accountability before you God, and each other.
The calling to serve you by participating in the 'business' or administrative life of the Church has been understood by Methodists to be an expression of mature discipleship - this is why at local church level, we have required people to be members before they can be church officers. It's is not about safeguarding the collection - it is about proclaiming a belief that church business - whether balancing the books or filling in property schedules is a Godly task. You have showed us that it can be a means of grace, particularly when undertaken by those who willingly seek to serve you, God, and who want to grow in their faith by so doing.

I KNOW that the people who lead our Church believe in you God, not because they affirm it on my blog, but because I am fortunate enough to know a significant number of them and have had the privilege of praying and working with them. BUT (and it really is a big BUT ) if our Church's faith or knowledge of you God, were to be judged by how the business work of the Church is done and communicated, the material that gets printed in our name, the reports, the policy documents, strategy papers, Conference agenda's - the job adverts etc - then I doubt that many would guess how passionately we believe in you and how committed we really are, as your people, to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I dont believe the answer is to simply litter our reports and agendas with quotes from Scripture (although it might not be a bad idea to provide some evidence that we do still read it and refer to it in our decision making processes) Neither will the odd theological paragraph, or brief historical reference to Wesley work in making it look as though we are trying to talk about YOU God. We need to start by wanting our business and our communication with the outside world as well as amongst ourselves to more accurately and evidently reflect our faith, our love of You, and our calling - which means they have to be unashamedly written with that as their originating intent.

Its time to Talk of you God as well as to you - whilst we still can and before we completely forget how or why.

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