Bend what is rigid in me, warm up what is frozen in me. (Old prayer quoted on Pray-As-You-Go podcast for Mar. 23, 2006).
From In The Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
“Every time we see a major crisis in the history of the church, such as the Great Schism of the eleventh century, the Reformation of the sixteenth century, or the immense secularization of the twentieth century, we always see that a major cause of rupture is the power exercised by those who claim to be followers of the poor and powerless Jesus.” (76-77)
It does seem like power is an intoxicating temptation for so many in the church. It is so easy to fall back on our own devices. Sometimes I am sick to death of hearing about strategic plans, leadership training, evangelism techniques, and all the rest. Yes, all this is good information to have, but where is a church that depends on the latest business strategy (or more typically, the strategy that was popular in business about ten years ago) instead of truly and really depending on the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
It is so odd. How often do a hear a flurry in clergy circles about some new author, consultant, evangelist or pastor that we should all emulate because they have written/done/taught such amazing things? And most often, they have written/done/taught amazing things. But what they all seem to have in common is a humble willingness to go wherever God leads and do whatever God asks. So should we be amazed, then, that God blesses their work? Not at all, although maybe we should be amazed that there are still people in our corporately-styled churches who are willing to listen and to go.
I understand that it is a natural tendency for bureaucracies to turn inward and to begin to feed on themselves and to eventually become entities whose primary purpose is no longer to look outward, but to turn inward in order to ensure their own survival. And I understand the temptation to give in to the easier path of recognizing that as long as the church survives in its present state I will always have a job and a salary and even a pension, but if the Holy Spirit ever changes the church (or me) too much, all that might be at risk. I really do understand that. But what does that say about the nature of our churches when the survival of the church in its present state is of more real concern to us than the spreading of the good news? As much as we hate to admit it, these two goals are not always the same thing.
And so, we become lured in by power. I am increasingly convinced that the survival of the church as we know it does not depend on better strategies, better technology or better training aimed at luring in a new generation, but a radical transformation. Not necessarily a transformation of the structure of the church, but of the heart of the church.