Head First: Can Any Good Thing Come Out Of San Diego?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Can Any Good Thing Come Out Of San Diego?

Apparently, it's possible. This week, Zondervan, in partnership with Leadership and Intervarsity Press, is holding its annual National Pastors Convention. To be honest, I've seen some information about it, but shrugged it off, assuming it was just another clever way for a publisher to pimp its wares to pastors, and in turn, get them to pimp those products to the masses (can't blame a brother for trying to make a living).

It seems, though, that this might turn out to be more than a What-Would-Jesus-Retail?-type of gathering. Out of Ur put up this post about Wednesday's opening session. Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, spoke about the propensity of ministers to want to control and hamper the work of the Holy Spirit.

From the Our of Ur article:

...Jesus irritates us by not sharing our passion for pragmatic answers. Jesus responds to Nicodemus' question, "How can a man be born again," with an unashamedly ambiguous answer. He says, "The wind blows where it wishes ...you do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Willimon says that like Nicodemus many pastors have a desire to control, manage, stabilize, and harness God. But we serve a Living God, and this God does not yield to the desires of men. His Spirit goes where he chooses, blowing freely like the wind. This, said Willimon, "is why we nail down our pews." We don't want the Spirit to blow in and disrupt our perfectly managed ministries.

I've seen this controlling tendency in myself, and my church--maybe you have too. We assemble boards, committees, and task forces to manufacture policies by which our ministries function. These policies determine the what, when, and how of ministry. They constrain the Living God and his people to minister within a bureaucratic framework that keeps us comfortably in control. The wind of the Spirit may be blowing outside, but we'd never know it behind church walls sealed shut with policies and procedures.

I'm curious to see how the comment thread develops over there. I'd also be interested in hearing the full content of Willimon's presentation. Mind you, I don't really hold out much hope that substantial change will occur as a result of this one sermon, but I'm relieved 1) to hear a church leader acknowledge that "the wind of the Spirit" could be "blowing outside" the walls of organized religion; and 2) to hear that someone's saying this out loud in the presence of people who have the means and authority to change things.

Now if they only had the guts...


Kc said...

Kinda gives a whole new twist on the phrase, "no guts, no glory" doesn't it? I'm gonna pray for it.

Dorsey, Jeff is MIA again. Want me to put out the APB this time?

ninjanun said...

Like you, Dorse, I have doubts that one sermon will change the way things are done (I mean, when has a sermon ever changed my life significantly? Um...um...) but it IS nice to hear someone say it.

As I was reading the quote, I was reminded how the Pete and I wanted to start a small group study based on reading some of the church fathers or delve into a study on (gasp!) theology (REAL theology, not the lame-ass SBC study guides that pass for "in-depth bible study", where they feed the answers to the questions they ask in the next paragraph), but the Powers That Be wouldn't go for it. I guess they didn't like the idea of us poking and prodding at the teachings of the status quo.

Caro said...

Wonder why there are only 2 comments on a subject that should unleash a firestorm of interest. Could it be that we too are trapped in our boxes and have forgotten that the real world is outside the walls?