Monday, September 24, 2007

On Call and Letting Go

I am running around with low-level anxiety these days. Things are going well at my church. I feel that relationships are flourishing, worship is meaningful, I am focusing on all the things the folks tell me they find important. But I wake up an hour before the alarm on Sunday mornings. Sometimes I wake up all night long, before Sunday morning.

I have never before had this experience. I am not sure exactly what is going on. Perhaps it is just fall-start-up stuff. Sunday mornings feel packed, at the moment, with special this and special that. I feel a bit like a cruise director. "... and over here, we have our Sunday School program, and over here are the grace-filled sacraments! Don't crowd the railings!!"

That song is crowding my thoughts. We are building a religion, we are building it bigger. I know that my church, like lots of smallish to middle sized churches, view a full calendar as a sign of vitality. Sometimes that is just a sign of busy-ness. I am somewhat of a Rick Warren fan. I read The Purpose Driven Church a few years ago, mostly out of curiosity at this publishing phenomenon (the Harry Potter scale of it. And it was about church!). I do not view soul-saving in the same way that Warren does. It's not that I don't believe souls need to be saved. They most emphatically do. I just don't view salvation in the same way... for me it is about meaning and relationship and the way souls shrivel and die without those. I shudder at the whole "personal relationship" with Jesus as evangelicalism constitutes it, though there is something profoundly true that meaning and relationship... with the community, and the living, radioactive God who is continually creating us... are key to what I would call "salvation."

But where I think Warren nails it and earns his gold star (and record-breaking sales) is in this central concept: churches that know their identity, know what they are about with great focus and clarity.... those are the churches that thrive. Churches that try to "do it all" because that is what "success" looks like, tend not to be thriving churches. They tend, rather, to be focused on the objective of keeping the doors open. A sure-fire, time-tested death sentence.

I told my church board yesterday that I would like us all-- boards, committees, congregation and me-- to focus on our sense of call. I said that if we ground ourselves in our call, I believe we will have a better idea of what things we are wise to invest our hearts and souls and time and talent in, and that we can know intuitively what things we can let go.

Of course, this message is about me, too, my anxiety, my relationship as this (mostly) authentic person in the congregation. If I ground myself in my sense of call... and it's all there in Luke 4... I will have a far better idea of where to invest my heart and soul (and time and talent), and what I can let go.


more cows than people said...

radioactive God?

is that a typo or... what do you mean? elaborate please.

this is tough stuff for pastors and for congregations.

blessings, dear one.

Cecilia said...

It's a term I heard once upon a time... reminding me of God's not-safe nature, God's power (which I forget when I try to make God my buddy), God's utter transcendence. Stuff like that.

Pax, C.

June Butler said...

Cecilia, I did not like Warren's book for the reason you say - his view of salvation - but also, because even churches following a call can grow and thrive, even if they're not following the Gospel call.

What about the prosperity churches? That's a message lots of folks want to hear, but IMHO, it's a counter-Gospel message.

It's been a while since I read the book, but just the general tone put me off. OCICBW.

Cecilia said...

Grandmère, I know what you mean, although I'm not sure I detected a prosperity message... maybe wasn't reading that closely. I suppose I interpreted Warren to agree with your statement... churches following a call can thrive, whether or not it's his five point call to win souls. And in the years since I read the book I have come to appreciate that Warren is a leader in the Evangelical movement for creating some meaningful
dialogue on issues such as AIDS and global warming... he has taken heat from the arch conservatives for these stands. So I am inclined fairly positively towards him... though I think his view of salvation is narrow and unhelpful and, frankly, unscriptural.

Pax, C.

Diane M. Roth said...

people who know who they are, and don't try to do everything...also succeed. is that what you mean (as well)? because it is also a point well taken.
also, they know what "success" looks like... to them.

Diane M. Roth said...

btw, I'm not a fan of Warrens myself, but I think the point is well taken... personally... as you see

Jan said...

Cecilia, I admire the way you are leading your church. It is good for me to hear you praise Rick Warren, as I can be a snob about books like his and the authors. Closemindedness keeps me away from God. . . .

sharecropper said...

Focus is difficult sometimes - in fact, right now, focus is totally out of the question for me - with moving and lots of busyness that seems necessary.

But, I really like the idea of a radioactive God - dangerous, but the best part is that if you get to close it's contagious! What an idea! Not only is being a Christian dangerous because a true call can lead you to do things you wouldn't ordinarily do, but because someone might catch it from you.

Hope some Sabbath peace seeps into your soul and helps your sleeping.