One of the reasons Jesus needs new PR is because his followers are not helpful. People who self-identify as Christian have been known to kill non-Christians, spew hate speech, and ignore Jesus in real time.
And so, with humility, I suggest these resolutions for followers of Jesus (aka The Church) in 2013:
1. Let go of dated buildings and/or designs. We update our kitchens at home. We update our bathrooms and living rooms. Why wouldn’t we update our worship space? Sometimes our buildings are unsafe or would cost a ridiculous amount of money to refurbish. It’s both okay and faithful to let those buildings go. (Note that the original buildings of The Early Church – the ultimate in sacred spaces - are no longer standing and we continue to function.) Take that massive sanctuary and reconfigure it for a 21st Century Church.
2. Remember that Jesus did not come to establish a a self-serving Christianity (e.g. I don’t like drums in church. The color of the sanctuary carpet annoys me. The church doesn’t have as many potlucks anymore and I love potlucks.) Jesus established a movement so profound that it’s supposed to reflect heaven on earth. (e.g. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Return violence with healing. Share your stuff.)
3. Be a good neighbor to the people who literally live next to us - as well as those who live far away. (Note: I confess before you and God that I am a terrible neighbor. I’m like the plumber who doesn’t take time to repair her own drippy faucet. I work such long hours for “the church” that I don’t take/have the time to comfort my grieving next-door neighbor whose mother recently died.) There was a church in Bethesda, MD searching for a new pastor and one of the references they requested of candidates was a letter from the candidate’s next door neighbor. They wanted to know – essentially – if their Christian neighbor /pastor actually looked anything like Jesus. Did she scream at her kids? Did he kick the dog? Was she attentive to the homebound neighbor across the street? I love this idea for pastoral references. Do we ignore our newly divorced next door neighbor while sending money to IJM? Do we fail to check on our sick across-the-hall neighbor while taking a mission trip to Haiti?
4. Be a pastor to a pastor. I serve the Presbytery of Chicago, specifically staffing the Commission on Ministry and the Commission of Preparation for Ministry. Period. But people often identify my job as being The Pastor to Pastors. Actually, no one has that specific role in our Presbytery, although several of us serve this role de facto. Pastors need pastors. Sometimes it’s as simple as praying for a pastor who is going through a terrible time. Sometimes it involves visiting a pastor in the hospital or taking someone out for coffee. I remember parishioners who prayed with me when I was their official pastor and I’ve never forgotten them. (St. Evelyn Morgan followed every prayer I prayed for her with a prayer she prayed for me.) Today each of us can be someone’s pastor. (Note: It has to be authentic. Don’t march up to someone and announce ‘I’m going to be your pastor’ when your relationship doesn’t warrant this.)
What resolutions would you suggest for The Church in 2013?
Image of the 132 year old St. James Roman Catholic Church building in Chicago which will be demolished in 2013 because of unsafe conditions. A new building project has been planned.