As I have been preparing for the next round of residential work in pursuit of the D.Min., I have been amazed at the reading that I have had to do - not the amount of it but the insight of it. Much of what I have read I would never have touched in the work of regular parish ministry. There is too much going on in daily congregation life to spend much time on reading some of the books and articles in preparation for the residential work. After all, weekly sermons need preparation (not just thrown together at the last minute), services need worked out (so they are uplifting for those who attend worship), Bible studies need to be prepared (with the supporting study and work), visitations need to be made, classes need to be taught, children need to be shown the wonder of the life in Christ (as they world around them tells them that living in Christ isn't worth it), meetings need to be prepared for and attended, follow up needs to be done, hospitals and nursing homes need to be visited, phone calls need to be made, and so on. Who has time to read about the "Global South" or "The Domestication of Transcendence"? Ugh. I wouldn't do it on a normal day. So I was challenged to do in preparation for next week.
And in doing so, I have been challenged, refocused, overturned and frustrated. All of those feelings and more run through me as I prepare for the two classes I will be taking. I am glad that I am being challenged because it makes me rethink and rework what it means to be a Christian and a pastor. It leads me to wonder about the state of Christianity today. It frustrates me in the I see much of what is being said as being true and not being able to make the changes needed in our churches today. I can understand what is being said and yet I can also see that there is no way that we, modern Christians in North America, will listen to what is being said. We are content in the type of Christianity that we have developed. It is very self-centered, me oriented and when it doesn't go our way (in health, work, finances, personal life, sex, play, life and death) we turn on God, try to remake Him, challenge Him and even "damn" Him. He is not "God" to us. He is not the One that we turn to in life and death. He is no longer seen as the One who truly knows what is important. Nor is Christian faith seen as the ultimate goal - life in heaven through death and resurrection. It is all about now, what I want, and when I want it.
How do you change that thinking? When I look at the Global South (Africa, Asia, Latin America), I am amazed at how they view the Word, God and faith. We "moderns" would say they are backwards and behind the times. But are they? Are we not leaving behind the faith when we discard the Word, when we make religion in our image and when we bring God down to us (refusing to let Him remain God).
Just saying. Just wondering. Just challenged in my own personal life of faith. Just challenged as a pastor. Thanks Lord, for the challenge.