Tuesday, February 12, 2008

So, what am I for, exactly?

Following yesterday's post on bible reading, I've been doing a bit of that with various people through today and making some interesting discoveries (and rediscoveries).

Our women's bible study group was getting its teeth into 1 Corinthians 11 this lunchtime - actually it was our second week of looking at it and we haven't yet really got down to a close reading of the text (maybe next time)!

Rather we've been talking about how we read the bible. And I must say I find myself a little perplexed at how some people are socialised into the world of Bible reading in our churches.

It seems that we feel we can't read the Bible like we read any other book. All our critical faculties, it seems, have to be left at the door. I know the Bible is inpsired. I know it's God's word. I know that if we take it seriously, it's dynamite.

The trouble is that we're schooled not to take the Bible seriously. We either treat it as a promise box - lots of things God's going to do for me because he loves me - or we treat it as a rule book, full of 'do's' and 'don'ts' and commands that we have to follow or else. We seem not to be able to read it as a story. And this has to be learned behaviour because it's not an obvious way to read anything.

Surely this is what ministers are called to do something about. After all, we're not called to run churches - the members do that, making decisions as they gather together, appointing leaders from among themselves to put those decisions into effect (well, at least how Baptists are supposed to do it). We're not called to be priests, representing our people before God and God to our people - we believe in the priesthood of all believers, so all can preside at the Lord's table, all can baptise, all can share their insights and use their gifts; supremely each of us can lead each of us into an encounter with the living God.

So what are we for? I used to tell a previous church that my role was to be theological consultant, helping them to read scripture and apply it to their lives; telling stories of what they could be like if they grab hold of God with both hands - and then supporting as they do that and fear the wheels coming off completely!

And I think today that God's been reminding me that that is a key part of my job - if not my whole raison d'etre. After spending time reading the bible with lots of lovely people today, I also realise it's the part of my job that I really love the most.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. There is something crucial here about the transition out of the kind of engagement with scripture that is suitable for children, towards more mature kinds of engagement. While adult Christians make this transition in many other aspects of life, it seems that there is something about church culture which means that the educational process stops. Thanks for your own reflections on the role of ministry in all of this - it also has a knock on effect as you might imagine into the world of theological education: i.e. in my first year classes I still encounter it.

Anonymous said...

Only your first year classes Sean? Things must be improving then!

I tend to find that the few people in my church who actually ask me any good questions about the Bible are the ones seen as 'spiritually immature' by others. As if once you become 'sound' you know all the answers, which gives you carte blanche to criticise the minister who doesn't conform. That plus of course I get told off when I tell people what it actually does (or doesn't) say in the Bible.

At least your ladies' group is starting to think about starting to think...

Anonymous said...

Hello Simon, I'm still here. Why is it the same people doing the same things week after week. Simon because the church is the way it is, you're destined to be the five fold ministries rolled into one.

Well, mum and dad's taxi will be redundant for a while!