Three years ago, I wrote a post called “Seeing your community through the ‘ideal’ filter.” The point of the post is that no group of believers – no church – is perfect. We can all learn from one another. But, we must be willing to humble ourselves and listen to those who are different from us.
Yesterday, I published a post called “Paul’s Vision for the Church“. In that post, I included this description of the church (from Andrew Chester, “The Pauline Communities”, in A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology. ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Michael B. Thompson, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997):
Paul’s vision for the communities that he wrote to can be summed up quite succinctly. He sees them as being a new creation in Christ, filled with the Spirit, possessing gifts of the Spirit and overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit, controlled above all by love; they are communities that should be pure and holy, mutually supportive and interdependent, completely united, transcending the oppositions and tensions between different groups within the community, and with every kind of barrier that would divide them in normal society broken down. (105)
This is certainly an “ideal” image of the church. But, I suggested that all communities of believers should strive for this ideal – not from their own abilities and methods, but by humbly admitting that they are not perfect and allowing the Holy Spirit to change them as he desires.
But, it is very difficult to “see” ourselves as we really are. It is often of great benefit to see ourselves from the perspectives of someone else – especially if it is someone who cares about us.
I think that Guy Muse, from “The M Blog“, has provided this valuable service for “traditional churches” in a post that he called “Seeing legacy churches through simple church eyes“. Guy observes and offers suggestions concerning 1) the Sunday morning sermon, 2) the offering, 3) Sunday School, 4) singing and praise, and 5) prayer. Notice that Guy is simply critiquing “traditional churches” from an idealistic or academic perspective. He has been part of simple churches in Ecuador for years. He recognizes some benefits of the churches that he’s participated in and would like to see believers in “traditional churches” come to know these same benefits.
Are those of us who are part of “traditional churches” willing to consider the perspective of someone like Guy? Are we willing to admit that we are not perfect and that there are ways that we could – and should – change to better reflect who we are as the people of God both to one another and to the world around us?
Then again, are those of us who are part of “simple churches” willing to be examined by someone who is part of a “traditional church”? Would “simple church” adherents be willing to admit that they could learn from those who are part of “legacy churches” in order to change to better reflect who they are as the people of God both to one another to to the world around us?
We can learn from one another… but only if we are willing to humble ourselves, listen to one another, and change where we need to change. It begins by admitting that we are not perfect. Then, it continues when we admit that we can learn from someone or some community that is different than we are.
Are we that humble yet? Perhaps we can start by seriously considering Guy’s observations and suggestions.