Why Use Up the Ground?

the concept of church has confounded me now for some time, and it seems i'm not the only one. it's the topic of many conversations, especially among Concordia college friends. is it because church is the most misunderstood aspect of the Christian faith? or is there another aspect of Christianity that is misunderstood more frequently than church? i doubt it. besides the fact that church is considered to be bound within 4 walls, there are plenty of other misconceptions, such as the congregation's absurdly heavy reliance on the pastor. rather than a spiritual leader, a pastor becomes an enabler. the top-down authority is a common perspective among Christians.

i brought this up to this morning's women's Bible study group (made of women ages 40-60--I'm the youngest). the question was regarding Berea, a church in Acts. as knowledgable people, the Bereans examined Paul's teaching against their own knowledge of Scripture to make sure he knew what he was talking about. the question was asked: why was it important that the Berean's were choosey about their intake of information? how is their response to Paul an example to us? I mentioned the fact that it's important we all take ownership of our faith, rather than leave it up to a leader to tell us what to believe. the fact is, leaders/pastors/theological buffs are human. Scripture is not. it is divinely inspired and should be a daily portion of every believer's life. i explained that i became frustrated when at Bible study, our friends often "jokingly" turn down jonathan's request for them to pray for the study--for food, or for closing, whatever. it becomes a five-minute discussion because they'd rather jonathan do it. it's the same thing at many social gatherings where a pastor is present, or for that matter, a church leader is present. who is asked to pray? it's rarely laity. and yet, the priesthood of ALL believers is a core belief of the Christian faith.

the response i received in the women's Bible study really irked me, i'm not gonna lie. one of the women (a good friend of mine, i might add) said "but we all have different talents."

i couldn't even respond. it's not that i don't believe different people have different gifts. some people have the gift of intercession and some don't. but this does not concern the gift of intercession. this is regular, standard prayer we're talking about--and prayer is SO vital to a Christian's walk with God. i wonder--how often do lay Christians pray in their home? with their children? with their spouse? how important is Scripture study/memorization to all of us "regular people" in the church?

we had some interesting passages in church today that i don't think i've noticed before. luke 13:7 is a parable of Jesus: "Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?"

and so i have to ask myself if i am merely a consumer like the fig tree. am i using up ground worthlessly, producing no fruit? is consumerism the only art the church has perfected today? i truly believe that the fruit God is waiting to receive is what he has created us for. he has given each of us gifts, and when we are released to do what we were created to do, to love, to make music, to tell jokes, to serve, to design, etc., when we do it all for him, it will be the fruit he is looking for. but if we sit back and let those gifts go because we'd rather have the "professional" do it, then the church is missing out on the perfect plan God had for us. we all have great things to contribute and should never diminish our purpose.


joanna said...

i really like that interpretation of the fig tree story, i think it's very pertinent to the church today.

i've always had a hard time with the whole "office of the keys" thing in the Lutheran church. They base the whole doctrine off of one verse and Catholic tradition... which is okay i suppose, but it does not empower lay people to do what they've been called to do... like you said, we are a kingdom of priests -- all of us.

because you are smart enough to get through seminary, then you get a piece of paper that gives you the authority to change wafers and wine into body and blood... i know i'm oversimplifying it, but it's always bugged me because it's not in the Bible.

i know that the attitude of "let the pastor do it all" is present in every denomination... in my experience it is much more prevelent in "office of the keys" church structures.

what do you think Ames?

Amy said...

here's an interesting scenario: what if after being shipwrecked and bruised and left for dead, Gilligan and his hungry companions found themselves desiring spiritual food and wanted to share communion on the island? should they refrain from taking part in Jesus' body and blood because a pastor wasn't on the Minnow with them?

my greatest frustration as a lay person in church is to see other lay people who don't know the very BASICS of Christianity, like where the book of Romans is in the Bible, or what Baptism is for, or that they can and they need to pray themselves, rather than letting a church leader do it. and the reason it bothers me so much is because this doctrine, the way that it's perceived and practiced, stands as a wall between them and God. they are kept from an intimate, day-to-day relationship with our Creator that is fully theirs for the taking. why miss out?

you mentioned the one verse the doctrine is based off of--i do not think it's okay to base an entire doctrine (especially this large) off of one verse. and actually, that act is against other parts of our doctrine. "good" Lutherans use Scripture to interpret Scripture. the rest of the Bible is very clear that Jesus empowers each and every one of us with the Holy Spirit.

from that, i can conclude that if a regular ol' Christian was in a situation that required them to do something that lutherans assign to pastors (mainly) that it would be God's will that his grace would be given. really, that's the main assignment of all Christians--we administer grace.

Ang said...

it seems to me that there is a need to equip the laity with these skills, isn't there?

people don't feel comfortable/adequate to pray which shows a misunderstanding of God's character and his expectations, sure, but it also shows a severe lack of confidence. if people don't know how to find Romans in their Bibles, then this should be a focus of the church. why don't people read their Bibles? are they being told that they should? why don't people pray? have they been shown a strong theology of prayer?

i know that many won't pray in a group situation because it makes them uncomfortable - and that has to be respected. praying out loud isn't necessary to Christian faith. on the other hand, prayer obviously is.

and so is the church. Jesus is quite clear on the importance of the church. and no, church isn't 4 walls and a pastor...but it is a place for Christians to gather and edify one another and God has instituted spiritual leaders.

to the woman who says "we all have different gifts", i'd say - "you're right. what are yours and how can you use them to serve God and edify the church?" people need to know that their contributions are important...and necessary.

and the church leaders need to be prayed for too. perhaps here's a challenging question: "if the pastor's always praying, who's praying for the pastor?"