Simplicity Itself



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Simplicity Itself

This is an old argument, one I was close to when I left seminary. But because anthropology was my major, I found I had to look at more elements than the ideal in order to see what all a pastor has to work with.

When I started a new congregation, we hoped to establish a church without walls. We met in homes, then in spaces rented from neighborhood churches, and finally attempted to plan for an all-purpose building that could serve the community and not just us.

We found that unless I took a job outside the church to supplement my family income and that unless the cultural value was met for an identifiable location for the congregation, we could not continue as a church.

It is obvious that another pastor may have succeeded because there were examples around the country of a wide variety of congregation-to-building experiments were succeeding. Most of those had the major disadvantage of a very small pool of pastors to draw upon when the original pastor left. Solving problems of succession of pastors for churches is one best handled by a collaborative ecclesia of some size for there to be a pool to find an appropriate candidate.

Few communities succeed without significant smaller groups that share the overall goals but allow for individual expression in one or more of the principle elements of culture (education music/art, family, political structure, etc.), That is why large churches with many active small groups, community and world outreach, and humane management are successful. Smaller churches can provide similar quality of ministry even in areas where demographics make growth unlikely. Both need a base of operations and both face the temptation of idolizing the building or its organization or its wealth, which I agree with Rev. Dick are barriers to being the church

As a mission pastor, I was amazed at how much having a facility impacted the identity and effectiveness of a church.

"God's colony in man's world" needed a functional stockade.

And it needed a relationship to a larger entity from which it drew collaboration on larger community and world mission efforts as well as a pool for succession.

If a church in Rev. Dick's sense is to survive beyond the vision of its current pastor, then the larger collaborative fellowship we experience in a denomination would have to be built up. And for the sake of identity, a location identifiable in the community would need to be established.

It is just a whole lot easier to operate as a pastor when those are already in place. Dealing with the idols some members have do make it complex, which is hard for those who want "simplicity itself." It is a whole lot more humbling, which we pastors need every now and then.

In summary, every excellent vision works only in a cultural/social context either built by that vision or is already in existence. Otherwise it becomes a sect that fades when the visionary ages and dies.

Rev. Jerry Eckert more than 10 years ago