Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bottom Up, Inside Out

How does the PC(USA) reform itself? How will it be reborn? I have friends I talk to and facebook groups I participate in who believe that the way to reform and rebirth this denomination is to rewrite the Book of Order, to create better advertizing, to restructure the bureaucracy. I know pastors who move from theological fad to theological fad looking for the silver bullet that will bring back 1950, when everybody streamed into congregations and the company of pastors was a respected calling by everyone in this society.
That day is gone, and it's not coming back.
I think that the PC(USA) will be reformed and reborn the same way we individually are; we are changed from the inside out. Church growth folks talk about people acting their way into believing, but the New Testament demonstrates that Christ changes individuals, who then begin to act differently in the world. Jesus Christ alone changes hearts and lives; that change then is worked out into the life we live in the world.
If you want to see signs of what Jesus Christ is up to in the PC(USA), don't look to Louisville, or the NFOG task group, or any of the alphabet soup of groups that each presbytery churns out of its committees. Jesus Christ is changing the Church from the bottom up, from the inside out.
Here's the change I see from my place on the fringes: I see a congregation that was afraid of its neighborhood, afraid to pray out loud, afraid of speaking the words "Jesus Christ" in a normal conversation now going door-to-door in that same neighborhood asking neighbors "what can we pray for you?" and when they receive an answer, praying with them. I see old and young, new members and longtime members praying with the kids who now come in from around the neighborhood on Wednesdays, and sharing their faith in Jesus Christ. I see hopeless addicts who now stand with Christ, pray and study the Scriptures, who are leading others in that same hopelessness to the Source of all hope. I see a congregation in Oak Cliff that knows exactly what to do when someone comes up and says, "sir, we would see Jesus."
Race doesn't matter. Origin doesn't matter. Generation doesn't matter. Even congregation doesn't matter, as the Great Banquet Ministry becomes a bottom-up and inside-out model for ecumenical Christian witness and action.
We're not unique; we're just not in the limelight. We are speaking; we just don't have control of the microphone. Jesus Christ is reforming and rebirthing the PC(USA) from the bottom up, from the fringes in, from the inside out.

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