Church development guru, Tom Bandy, has been most helpful to us in North Alabama as we think our way into the future. Tom Bandy has made a number of helpful visits to the North Alabama Conference in the past few years. I’m sure that those visits are part of why we enjoyed such overwhelming support for our district reformation. In a recent book, Mission Mover, Bandy notes something that got me to thinking. Bandy says to us clergy, “Once a time when preparing for ministry meant meetings, political activism, counseling, now it’s preparing to interject Jesus into the conversation and a willingness to relinquish control.” (Pg 27)
We clergy are called by the church to talk about God, to interject Jesus into the conversation and, in Bandy’s words, to be willing to “relinquish control.” Alas, most of us who have been to seminary are better trained to analyze and to construe the human condition through mainly sociological, political, or economic categories than essentially theological ones. We adopt the language of anthropology and relinquish our peculiar theological speech.
I agree with Bandy that we must reclaim our essentially theological vocation. We are to be “God people,” those who “interject Jesus into the conversation” in a world that would rather think in exclusively anthropological categories.
Recently somebody wrote to me complaining about some political statement that was made by the National Council of Churches, criticizing their stand and saying that it was “unpatriotic” and “not supportive of our troops” and the “war effort.” I replied that, while I had no great interest in the waning influence of the National Council of Churches, I was a preacher, a person who was supposed to talk about Jesus and the Bible rather than be concerned with matters like “patriotism” and “the war effort.”
I think that we clergy must discipline ourselves to talk about peculiarly, specifically biblical concerns rather than allow ourselves to be drawn into and preoccupied with essentially secular (that is, godless) matters.
Bandy goes on to say that, “Yesterday’s challenge was to find leaders who could help people discern Christ in the midst of godlessness, today’s challenge is to find leader who can help people discern Christ in the midst of rampant godliness.” I like that. Yesterday, we were worried about secularism, atheism. Today, our concern is “rampant godliness,” vague and free-floating, vacuous “spirituality.” Our task is to help people look at their lives, not in terms of some vague sense of the “spirituality.” Our task is to help people look a their lives, not in terms of some vague sense of the “spiritual,” but specifically in the light of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace. We have got to give some content and challenge to the “rampant godliness” that infects our culture, to point to the specific, discipleship demands of Jesus Christ, rather than allow folk to slip into an inconsequential morass of the merely, vaguely spiritual.
At least that’s what Tom Bandy has got me to thinking this week.