As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12: 20-25)
While I was on vacation, I attended a conference in Toronto. Well – to be specific it was in Brampton at North Bramalea United Church. I know that Brampton really isn’t Toronto, but for those of us who live and work in Lanark County, pretty much everything west of Port Hope is Toronto, right!
North Bramalea United Church is really quite spectacular. Its not a mega church, but 4 Bethel Sanctuaries could fit in their sanctuary – and all of their pews are these cushy chairs that on a warm afternoon can make it really hard to pay attention. The conference was with a bunch of other United Church Ministers – from other big and well-appointed churches. Several of my colleagues introduced themselves as the “Lead Pastor” at such and such a church. I thought of starting to call myself the “Lead Pastor” of Bethel but Hugh figured that if I was going to puff myself up then I should go all out and call myself “Mother Superior”. Em’s vote was that I call myself “Ultimate Grand Supreme Pastor”; a riff off of the old TLC show ‘Toddlers in Tiaras’.
Regardless – I was feeling particularly small and church mousy at this conference. A feeling that got perpetuated when my colleagues started talking about the resources they had access to and the staff that they had supporting the work that they did. To be fair, I have Linda Hamon and they don’t, and a sound booth would take up our whole back of the sanctuary, and then where would the Miller famjam sit? And our Bob Klatt just hammered that piece of paneling back up where the booth would be built!
Then the keynote speaker spoke for the first time. It was Dr. Jason Byassee if any of you are interested and he was very good. I have read several of his books; one of which I passed around to some people on the Board. This time he wasn’t speaking on the books I had read, and instead spoke about the work of one of our church founders; John Wesley.
One of the things that Wesley did was organize small groups that he called Class Meetings. These were people that were formed specifically for the purpose of developing their lives as Christians, and to be accountable for their life of faith to each other. Wesley instructed the groups to begin with the question “How is it with your soul?” and to encourage the groups to be honest and transparent around how they are actually doing spiritually.
And in that one little moment I had a little mini “road to Damascus” moment. You know – the moment when Saul encountered God on the road to Damascus and this encounter changed him completely.
Let me see if I can explain.
I think, in the great secularization of our society, the rampant materialism, and the decline of the church, that somehow we’ve strayed away from why we gather together in community on Sunday morning. Well – maybe I’m using the ‘royal we’ again – but I’m certainly also seeing this as a trend generally in churches. Worship has kind of become a spectator event. My belief is that its become more of a passive ‘watch’ with the increase of virtual worship. People talk about worship as a consumer experience, where you stay if your ‘fed’ or if your somehow ‘moved’.
And we’ve lost that worship is about the state of our souls and moving further along the path of faithfulness.
Although, to be fair, I think that this is exactly the reason that Bethel continues to thrive. We are thriving because, well, we’re too small, too rural and too far away from effective broadband to be a place where people can be passively entertained by church. Being part of Bethel requires engagement- requires your participation – requires you to be in accountable relationships with each other.
In short, requires you to be honest with the question “How is it with your soul?” because, frankly, if you’re not honest, someone will know and call you on it.
So, while I was feeling mousy and insignificant as your leader, I recognize that we have something really special here – something that is special and significant enough that the rest of the body of Christ needs us and needs to hear that what we are is wonderful, amazing, and special.
So, if you’re feeling a little like an appendix or a baby toe in your significance in the Body of Christ, remember that sometimes that things that are small are not insignificant. Sometimes things that are small are doing exactly what they need to – and are critical to the functioning of our world.
So – my friends, How is it with your soul today?
Blessings and remember that you are Loved.