Ecclesiastical Misconceptions #2

The season of Easter (it’s not just one day!) continues, as does an exploration into the world of ecclesiology – or the study of the church. I’ve chosen to use these great fifty days to explore some of the not-so-great myths and misconceptions of the current church. Last week’s misconception focused on our perceived need for young folks. Today’s misconception?

#2: THE MYTH OF SUSTAINABILITY

I’m sitting at the Session table of the Saints Preserved Church and they are discussing the budget. From the looks around the table, they’ve done this dance before. Shoulders slump, fingers doodle and no one looks anyone else in the eye. Finally, someone gathers up their courage and puts “that which shall not be discussed” on the table. They need to make changes, because their current ministry model is not sustainable.

The silence is deafening. 

The silence is defeating.

This is what ultimately happens when we worship sustainability.

When we hold on to the myth of sustainability, we ask the wrong questions. We query whether there will be enough funding (or people) to continue a task and our concerns center around existing programming and projects (with a few bright exceptions). We wonder if we can sustain that which we have come to value.

Something different happens when we switch our focus from how to sustain current ministry to questioning if this is the ministry we’re called to do in this time and place. 

We focus on sustainability because to question whether or not we’re doing the work God wants us to do is a far harder path. It’s more difficult because it demands we get our own notions and priorities out of the way and we intuit that the answer we hear may ask much of us. Our first question needs to be if God is asking us to do something, with the follow-up questions then become those of implementation.

For those of us with business acumen, this makes absolutely no sense. For anyone who has attempted to establish a budget or plan a building project this is utter nonsense. You begin with what assets you have in hand and then strategize what you can do. This way of doing our work together may seem backward, until we remember that it’s not our work that we are doing.

I’m sitting at the Session table of the Disciples of Jesus and they are discussing his upcoming ride into Jerusalem as well as his death. They argue that his plan is not sustainable. They are correct. There is nothing about the cross that is sustainable. It is foolishness. 

Let’s ask the harder questions. Let’s pick up our own cross and follow on this seemingly unsustainable journey. Let us be fools for Christ.

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