About 10 1/2 years ago I found myself on a continuing education trip in Orlando, Florida. Yes, Florida in the winter-- a welcome relief (weatherwise, at least) from the snow and ice storms of central Indiana.
But I wasn't there for the weather. I was there for Stephen Leader Training so I could learn how to train others to be Stephen Ministers in the congregation where I was appointed.
Now I'd been attending the Stephen Ministry meetings at the congregation for a while. I'd read the basic books. I'd heard the Stephen mantra (if one can say there is one) again and again. "We care. God provides the cure."
But if I had heard it before, Stephen Leader Training really seared that into us. It wasn't going to be enough for us to tell OTHERS "We care. God provides the cure." We, the leaders, had to live that way, too.
Within Stephen Ministry that meant, at the very least, that those of getting "leader training" couldn't go back and simply tell those we were training that the "curing" was entirely up to God, while sort of secretly (or not so secretly!) continuing to act on the premise that "if you really want to get through whatever you're going through more quickly or better, you'll come to a Stephen leader or a clergy person."
No. "We care. God provides the cure."
Seems to me this principle might apply not only to the ways we approach "pastoral care" (whether offered by laity or clergy), but indeed Christian discipleship, missiology and ecclesiology.
Are we, in whatever we're doing in the name of Jesus, really actually doing it, or are we trying to get someone else to do it. Is the heart of our commitment to Jesus about following him ourselves with whoever around us will do that with us, or is it about getting others to follow Jesus in a particular way with us?
Do we do what we do because we care?
Or do we do what we do because we think we can and should cure others, rather that trusting God to provide whatever that "cure" might look like?
Maybe these are core questions for discerning whether our motives are "missional" or "attractional." If we act because we care-- we've been given gifts and passion by God's grace to act-- maybe that's a sign we're being missional. But if we act because we think we can or should fix somebody else, maybe that's a sign our motives are more attractional.
Confession... I with perhaps many of you really want to fix the United Methodist Church. And part of me thinks that folks like us-- folks who think and try to act missionally and encourage others to do likewise-- share that same driving desire. I think we can do that. Or at least we may have one of the better shots at trying at the present time.
But maybe that's not our calling. Maybe our calling isn't to convince others to do what we think they ought to do, even when it's about restoring missional Methodism. No. Maybe our calling is to care-- simply to care. And to act on what we've been given to care about ourselves, whether others agree with it, like it, despise it, whatever. We have things we do care about-- gifts and passions God has given us to act on, individually and with others, including sometimes with each other. If we care, and trust God for the cure... maybe that's enough.
What if we simply ReBe Church... starting with ourselves?
Peace in Christ,