I was at a training recently for United Methodist pastors.
A statement made really got my attention. The issue was how it is that sometimes, when we seek to build community based on shared values and corporate buy-in, people who exist on the edges of the community seek to dictate course. In other words, they show up only rarely, “invest” themselves minimally or not at all, and then lob their comments into the “boat” of the community and expect that they will be able to chart the course of the communal boat.
The comment made was that these folks are “on the dock” and have not earned the right to pilot the boat.
I loved it! Church is so often a messy and confusing place. We are somehow under the impression that as dutiful followers of Jesus, we cannot practice clean and clear boundaries around process. We’re too nice to say to someone “Hey, get in the boat and we have something to talk about. As long as you remain on the dock, your voice just isn’t going to be pilot”.
What happens when people forget that living in healthy ways together is a foundational value of Christian community is that members wield power in the ways practiced in secular culture. They withdraw their monetary support. They boycott worship for various and sundry reasons. They mutter and mutter via emails and spoken word their denigration of the course of the boat called church. They refuse to practice the Jesus teachings of face to face conversations and communal problem solving. And they somehow believe that if they shout loudly from the dock and enjoin others to join their campaign of discontent, they can pilot the boat from the dock.
I had a clergy colleague, a former District Superintendent, who asked a question that lives with me yet: “Do you want to be Christian, or do you want to be nice?”
I think that in charting the boat called church in these days of necessary honesty and new shore seeking, we need to be Christian. We need to celebrate those who are in the boat.
And we need to leave the dock party in the hands of God as we set out on the thing called being community in Christ in the 21st century.
The seas await!