Our reading for this Thursday, June 20, 2019 is Romans 12:3–5.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. — NIV
I apologize up front for what I write this morning. I am in the midst of transition in my life as I retire from my present pastoral appointment. My transition shades my perception of the passages I discuss. My comments are directed toward those committed in faith today and active within the ministry of a church somewhere.
I came home from a Transition meeting last evening rather humbled. I was asked to provide the vision I had for Liverpool First when I began my tenure five years ago. My response was not very spiritual, but pragmatic — mentioning the systemic change needed of simplification of organization and decision making, prioritizing and coordinating of program, and the development of the ministry of congregational care. While I believe what I shared was accurate each of these definitions required explanation and that is not what the body needed or was looking for. They reflected process and not vision.
Vision is less technical and more inspirational in terms of expressing hope and aspiration. I was disappointed with myself for the response I gave. My vision has been to help the church embrace the change it needed to restore vitality in its fellowship, deepening of faith and capacity to make disciples. I can try to pacify my disappointment with my response by acknowledging my surprise and unpreparedness to respond to the question I was asked, but I know I could have been clearer and provided a more helpful response.
The point I am making is not in support of my assessment I made at that meeting, but rather my assessment of myself. I aspire to be better than how I presented myself before the leadership of the church. My response was not helpful and the problem I wrestled with afterwards had more to do with myself than what was needed. I believe I was attempting to justify my leadership of the congregation during my tenure rather than helping the leadership discern a vision for what God may want to accomplish with and through them.
We often times get in our own way. We want to think more of ourselves than is appropriate. The point is not about us personally but the corporate us as a body of partners in ministry. While this passage has often been used to assist people with accepting the varied giftedness God has given them to encourage service in the church it is also meant to provide perspective on our role in the bigger picture of God’s unfolding plan.
We are part of the body of Christ, the church, but we are only a part. And while our part is necessary and needed we are only a part of a partnership with other people gifted by God that together can accomplish what God wants to do within and through us. So do not think you are never needed or diminish the important role you play in God’s vision, but at the same time accept the limits of your role. We may each have our personal agendas but unless we discover a common agenda we will only spin our wheels. We each need grace to accept our role and work with others to fulfill the dream of making disciples of Jesus.
It is my hope that as I move on to lead another congregation and to hopefully plant a couple new faith communities that the church I leave behind me will realize their potential. As my readers come from varying churches and denominations it is my prayer we embrace a greater picture for what the church should be in our time and place. Like individuals we as churches must accept our humble role in the bigger picture of God’s unfolding plan to redeem the world.
We must do our part but never succumb to some vision of our importance. We remain partners with God and with one another.
Blessings! Dr. Brian Homan