It’s a round table, but I’m not sure about the knights

 “My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you”. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

Sorry to interrupt your day by quoting scripture at you like one of those shouty man evangelists but I thought you might appreciate some context about my  need to rant about this  video which disturbs me as a church leader.

The passage above is from the first chapter of  the first letter to the Corinthians. In it, Paul confronts the causes of deep division in a church always willing to argue with each other and to declare one another to be in the wrong. It came to mind almost immediately after watching this.

One reason I love this passage is that it provides a great name for a band (Chloe’s Household).  The other reason is that Paul is humble about the purpose and value of his leadership:  “ I’m not here to tell you about Paul or how to grow in a relationship with him; I’m here to tell you about Jesus.”

I know God has a sense of humour.  It tends to rely heavily on irony and slapstick.  So when Christians who lead very heavily from the bible have what they believe to be deeply biblical conversations, yet act like the divisive people Paul wrote about,  I chuckle first and weep second. They are usually the same people who preach on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) and finish by saying, “Thank  God we aren’t like that Pharisee”.

They bring scripture to life by showing how realistic the situation Paul wrote to confront was. Here we see the emphasis of the messenger over the message itself:

“But Francis, if you go, who will they follow?”

“that executive pastor guy doing your job, is he any good?”

“So few people cut the mustard with us,  if you stop, how will we be able to associate with you without having our ministries questioned?”

Who will they follow? I would hope that Chan’s answer would be “I suspect they will follow Jesus as I hope they have been always doing.”

But that isn’t really the answer Chan’s questioners are looking for. The  tone of the conversation implies our way is the way, the church has needed us for so long and now here we are. We can’t let them down. We can’t abandon the structures that makes our followers sound. Our absence might tempt the sheep to go to false teachers.  We are the great teachers of our time, we have obligations.

Were you baptised in the name of Francis or Mark or Joel or Bill or Rob or Shane or Brian? Or Dave or Eric or Martin or Ian or Taffy or Vivian or Jane or Veronica?  No, you were baptised in the name of Jesus who lets replaceable and sometimes wrong and sometimes sinful and sometimes doubting servants be part of his exciting movement in the world.

I’ve learned that my ministry is only effective when I do not stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesus but rather follow him with the rest of the church. When I act like I have just come in from a strategy session with Jesus I become a stumbling block and I make the flock dependent on me rather than the Lord. I’ve looked, that’s not in my ordination vows.

My job is to live in their midst, always pointing towards Jesus and encouraging them to come to him and making sure that the obstacles and threats that might stop them are cleared away.

I wish that video had been full of excitement and encouragement. “Go for it Francis. We’re excited about this big scary step and we’ll be behind you. Follow the Spirit Francis and thank God you’ve been part of leading a church that can look after itself when you are gone”. But, it wasn’t and that is to the detriment of us all.

Having ranted and got it out my system, my hope is that I can meet with my fellow leaders and offer them my love and support rather than my questions and prejudices (and you all know I have plenty of both) about the ministry God has given them.  I hope you can do that with your fellow believers too.

Now, who wants to play Bass in Chloe’s Household?

****

A better blog on this meeting can be found at: http://www.outofur.com/archives/2012/02/the_dangerous_p_3.html.

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About newnortherner

I'm a vicar in the town of Macclesfield with a lovely wife and three kids who are a credit to me. A friend at theological college told me I was a walking theological reflection so I figured a blog was the best way to get out lots of words without tiring lots of ears. I like cycling, reading, films and just chilling out.
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One Response to It’s a round table, but I’m not sure about the knights

  1. Eric says:

    I think this an excellent blog, ‘LostintheNorth’. You have seen to the heart of it, the ‘Successful Ministry Paradigm’ which is the antithesis of Christlike ‘Success’. I guess the responses of Driscoll et al. are ‘just’ a sign of fear of the radical kind of dependence on God’s goodness that not only Chan is learning to depend on in ministry, but that we are called to learn if we are to walk in the way of LIfe? I guess their response to Chan is actually a Real confrontation with the Fear (Unbelief) in their own hearts – at least I pray that this is so.

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