Input without ownership pt2

Figthing for Jesus!

A Christian with a heart for bored, disengaged lads in his town, has set up a fight club. The young men are channeling their surplus energy in a controlled environment with responsible, adult, trained wrestlers not only to guide the “martial art” but to provide positive input, and role models for the young men. This mentoring has led to the conversion of a number of the fighters. They now need to learn to be church. They need teaching, communion, pastoral input – with a cultural chasm between them and the local churches every bit as great as that between the converts of Green Street and Charles Simeon’s church in Cambridge. They need to be church in that micro culture where they live.

The leader of the club now reaches out to you the minister. Can you provide teaching, pastoring, baptism, communion and help them become church? Will you say yes? Can you make that input without being the controller; without owning? That help may include assisting with the club’s processes for creating frameworks for quality control, insurance cover, professional standards etc. Those may already be in place and it is purely the work of a spiritual older brother that’s being invited.

I hope that many ministers would say “Yes I want to bless what the Lord is doing. I don’t need control in order to feel I can befriend, step in and make an input.” But let me take it to the next degree: what if those asking you for such input are members of your own denomination. Can you still help? Or are you now beginning to transgress some boundaries?

By this point it will probably be clear to anyone familiar with denominational life that input without control is in reality a paradigm significantly at odds with the way our church organisations run and program us. The invitation to engage this way is an immense privilege and opportunity yet it engenders great anxiety for anyone programmed in a conventional, institutional paradigm.

  • How do we step into a community we have not generated, that we don’t run and that we are not responsible for?
  • Can we say yes at all?
  • Can we say yes to everyone except those in our own denominations?
  • Can we enter grassroots worlds as servants and friends only?

Personally, I think we can. All around the world episcopal visitors do so when they are invited to visit monastic communities. (This is a convention of more than one and a half millenia of standing. Clearly we can do it!) In South America catalysts, liberationists, and monastic brothers and sisters do so when they visit base ecclesial communities in the continent’s interior. And I know a few pastors across the denominational spectrum who operate in this open-handed way. Those on the receiving end of this kind of ministry that doesn’t own or control find that it empowers, affirms, emboldens and vivifies.

I hope in a small way I have entered into something of this dynamic at times – as a guest in others’ churches, as a consultant for small local groups through my work with OIKOS Australia and as a spiritual older brother to various student-led Christian groups on campuses around the world.

Denominational anxieties may ask, “But how will that help us? Can we afford to give open handedly? Or is it time to support only those ministries we can quality control – and monetize? Are we free simply to bless what we see the Lord doing? Can we believe that if we give it will be given back, pressed down, shaken together and running over – as a wise man once said?!” I hope we can because it is a paradigm I strongly believe in.