I want to take an excerpt out Tony Jones' book.
It is a painful paragraph.
Let's throw it out and let's deal with it.
"Potential mainline preachers have to pick a flavor of Christianity early on in their careers-Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, Quaker, Baptist-the list could go and on. Like ice cream, these are the main flavors, but there are also all kinds of exotic variations-Baptist Chip, Baptist swirls, .... The pastor then becomes a one-flavor guy. He goes to that seminary, learns that theology, buts into that pension plan, and goes to that annual trade show. This is not to disparage erstwhile pastors-they really have no choice; they don't get to pick a new flavor on a whim. That's how the system of getting to be a pastor is set up; those are the rules by which the players are bound to play."
He goes on to tell the truth. Nobody cares about denominations anymore and mainline influence has waned under its bureaucratic mass.
1.) Bingo! That is absolutely the truth. I pray for Disciples Pension plan regularly.
2.) There was a moment when I wanted to drop out of Disciples. I searched to where I would go. I am not comfortable with the non-denominational denomination. I do not have street cred in those circles. I am not excited about Methodism and working with a Bishop and the third testament, the Discipline. So, where to go. I decided that my own tribe of folks Disciples was where God had called me to minister. The process of reformation needed to take place in this group and I need to work on that reformation.
As I read Stone and Campbell and live that tradition. I get the sense that they would agree with Jones' assessment of mainline Christianity. The problem with mainline Christianity is that we have divided into denominations and those are as Campbell would say 'a sin.' It has divided the church into schools, theologies, and ecclesiologies. I am a product of TCU and Brite Divinity School. I support both financially, because I seek a gentle reformation and I love TCU football.
The problem with seminary is that there is an expectation that we will have a job at the end of the tunnel. We give 3 years of our lives and lots of money to be educated and then there are jobs that do not pay enough for the education given. I think the education is important, but the reality is that many of us will have to work part time. Some of us will be resign positions, be fired, or quit. There is not a guarantee that another church will hire us even though we have skills and gifts for ministry. So, we have to work our own path to serve Jesus Christ.
My solution, as folks beholden to denominations, we need to challenge our leadership to remember that on the ground in the local church few care about general and regional structures. They are seeking a Jesus who will heal, liberate, and sustain them in their daily lives. They are seeking a path that is illuminated in the darkness. We guide folks down that path.
What happens if the Pension fund goes belly up like NBA? What are you going to do?
What happens if Church Extension folds?
Do we keep with this denomination or do we leave?
What keeps you committed to your denomination?
Is it the support of the bureaucracy or is it something greater and grander?
Why did I stay with my tribe? I believe that Disciples allows me to have conversations across lines of doctrine and creed. It allows me to hold to two fundamentals Jesus and the Bible. It gives me the freedom to work my own path of ministry. It is a grand tradition that provides some meaning. I need no Creeds. I need other books than the Bible. I need that freedom to converse with a majority of the world without the baggage of fundamentals that I have to hold onto, creeds I must confess, or rites and traditions that have no meaning. I believe that Disciples can help reform the church again.
If emergent is truly a reformation. Disciples need to join the conversation, because we have deconstructed Christianity once before. We can help do it again.
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3 years ago