Bishop Will Willimon of the Northern Alabama Conference blogs regularly and I appreciate what he shares. He's one of those bloggers who both challenges me and ministers to me through his writing. Currently he's featuring guest bloggers and today's message is worth the read. Some of the things that stick out to me are:
1) the ordinariness of who we are as United Methodists.
2) The way our titles, accolades, and reputations can impede the true work of the gospel because we become so obsessed with maintaining our reputation and status that we fail to allow God to work.
Sometimes it seems like church culture is a regression to high school drama. We worry about who's the most popular, who's the smartest, most technological, most theatrical, most well-known. We obsess over who has the most friends (read: members) and then consume ourselves with how we can compete, how we can be more attractive, noticed, popular whatever.
As I look toward taking a new appointment, the words said at my introduction meeting keep ringing in my head, "well, we're older, and we're not Harvest Church up the street." My internal reaction is, "Okay, and?!?!" So what if we're older? My grandma's older and I love her to pieces! And who cares is we're not Harvest church? Being the church, and being faithful to the gospel is not about being Big-name church up the street. It's about being authentic, it's about being real, it's about being who you/we are as believers/Christians/community/disciples and being okay with that. I'm not Angelina Jolie (neither for looks, nor wealth, nor even for dollars spent helping the poor), but I don't have a complex about it. I'm not Angelina--sure she's better looking, wealthier, and more in shape, but her abilities, her accomplishments don't make me any less me, nor my own qualities and characteristics any less valuable. So why would it be any different between churches. Harvest's qualities are what make them Harvest. Cool. And Wesley's qualities are what makes them Wesley. Also cool.
What's important to remember is that we are who we are for a reason, and we should be okay with that, and if for some reason we have a major character flaw, then we'll work on that, but if otherwise we're generally good looking, relatively intelligent, and intentionally compassionate, then we can build self-confidence in that and go with it. For me it boils down to confidence. Just like the prom queen or the quarter back, Big-name churches seem to emanate confidence, making all of the rest of us stand in awe and strive to be more like them. But just like the prom queen and the quarter back, they too have struggles, self-doubt, and internal issues. So instead of trying to become them, we need to be us. And be us with as much gusto, earnestness, and confidence as we can muster.