A Presbyterian Leader blogpost by Dr. Marcia Clark Myers, Direction of Vocation
I recently read Diana Butler Bass’s new book Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (Harper Collins, New York, 2012). It is real and provocative, inviting us to think outside of and beyond church as we have known it. She invites us to think about the community of faith as a place of mentoring in imitation of Jesus where the measurement of faithfulness is not our opinions about God, but our behavior toward God and each other. She points us to the opportunity to be church in “the spaces where strangers gather” such as city streets, festivals, coffee shops, and farmer’s markets (p. 263). What a wonderful image of being church in such places, not like the street preacher with the sign that says “Repent or die!”, but rather with an invitation to belong with a life-giving community!
I think about all of the energy and hours we spend in church and on internal church activities. What would it be like if Presbyterian leaders – ruling elders, teaching elders, and everyone – were turned loose to be the church instead of run it? What would it be like if we invited our neighbors to join us in being church rather than inviting them to “come to church”? What would it be like if we worshipped in multiuse crossroads facilities through which people (believers and non-believers) come and go regularly so that the walls between “church” and “life” were very porous?
I visited a pizza shop run by a young Presbyterian family and found collections of young and old Presbyterians gathered around tables visiting, sharing news of the community and concerns of the world. They were planning a concert to raise funds for a mission project. Folks around them were drawn into the conversation. I could easily imagine Bible study, prayer, the Lord’s Supper all in that wonderful fragrant space. Some of the new models of worshipping communities are doing just that – worshipping in coffee shops, restaurants, or a YMCA.
Presbyterian leaders can take us outside of church to be church. Ruling elders teach in our schools, ride with ambulances, run city government. They know the needs to which Christ might be calling us to minister.
At the request of the General Assembly, the Office of Vocation is undertaking a review of the current process of preparing persons to be teaching elders. How would that be different if church moved out into the streets and spaces of the community to which we are called?