An article about a ten year old lecture by Walter Brueggemann has gone semi-viral this week and it’s worth a second . . . and even a twentieth look.
We are pegged early and often as individuals with certain characteristics (clumsy, funny, shy, loud, cheap, ‘the smart one,’ ‘the screw up’) and it’s tough to shake the scripts. Churches also live by narratives that we’ve told themselves or that others have passed down through the years. Most of those scripts are either negative or false:
“We’ve never had any money.”
“Everybody wears mink.” (Seriously, I heard this one recently.)
“We are a neighborhood church.”
“We do so much mission work!“
After a day-long gathering of the Commission on Preparation for Ministry yesterday – which, for you non-Presbyterians out there, is the group that oversees those in the process of becoming professional ministers – it occurs to me that scripts play a huge role in both those who are discerning their life’s calling and those of us who serve as gatekeepers/cheerleaders in that process. Often the scripts feed off each other:
Seminarian: “I have always been good with people.” + CPM: “You need to work on your bedside manner” = Seminarian: “CPM is making me jump through unnecessary hoops.”
See what I mean?
It could also go like this:
Seminarian: “I’m not a good public speaker.” + CPM: “You have become a really good preacher.” = Seminarian: “Whoa, maybe God really has called me to do this.“
Our hope is that the latter is the more prevalent script, but sadly that’s not how it goes. And then the script/gossip is perpetuated: “The CPM process is basically ecclesiastical hazing.“
How are scripts changed?
Both for individuals and for institutions, it requires authentic and compassionate analysis which is not always easy (e.g. “I really am kind of a jerk.”) And yet, the cool thing about God and redemption and all that is the possibility that things can change. This is my hope.