Friday, December 02, 2016

The Presence-Driven Church Looks for Character, Not Ability

Wilberforce, Ohio

One great truth to be harvested from the fields of the history of Christian spiritual formation is this: A person's doing must emerge out of their being. Therefore, make your first priority formation into Christlikeness.

Of primary importance is who I am in Christ, and what shape my heart is being formed into (Christlikeness). This is about a person's character, not their abilities.

What we authentically do is an emergent property of who we are. Our "doing" supervenes on our "being." Our doing is entailed by, or is consequent on, who we are and what we are becoming. What we authentically do (what we have a "heart" for doing) inexorably flows from the shape of our heart.

If we don't get this order correctly, two bad things will happen: 1) we will evaluate ourselves by what we do rather than by who we are in relation to Christ; and 2) we will view and use others in the church for what they can do, rather than for who they are in relationship with God and us. These two bad outcomes provide the main reason why pastors and people burn out in churches.

Getting this ontological order of priority right is crucial in the development of real Jesus-community, rather than pseudo-community.

Eugene Peterson writes:

"If we identify people functionally, they turn into functions. We need to know our people for who they are, not for what they can do. Building community is not an organizational task; it is relational - understanding who people are in relation to one another and to Jesus and working on the virtues and habits that release love and forgiveness and hope and grace. (Eugene Peterson and Marva J. Dawn, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 2376-2378)

This is where the Entertainment Church and the Program-Driven Church fail. John is viewed as a "guitar player," rather than seen, first, as a person. John's function becomes what is important (because "We need another guitar player!"); thus, John is "used" in the church..

Peterson writes:

"What I want to point out is that this way of looking at and identifying Christians in community has a way of functionalizing them in our minds, thinking of them not for who they are in community, in relationship, but for what they can do. It is significant that as the Pastorals [the Pastoral Epistles] refer to the members of the community it is as men and women embedded in relationship - Paul was looking for character, not ability." (Ib., Kindle Locations 2371-2373)

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My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I am currently writing Leading the Presence-Driven Church, and expect it to be out in Summer 2017.