Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Timmis and Chester on Success

"Church without programmes, structures or buildings can make you very vulnerable. Leadership in which your life is open can feel scary. But we should embrace this fragility because it forces us to trust God's sovereign grace.
"I often describe our church as a group of messy people led by messy people. This is what happens when you take away performance and pretence. They are replaced by messy pastoral issues. But this is how growth takes place. This is how grace is displayed. To paraphrase the opening words of the Sermon of the Mount: 'Blessed are the broken people for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them' (Matthew 5:3). Ministry as performace does not welcome brokenness because it ruins the veneer. But God's kingdom is for broken people. When pastoral problems emerge, I do not think 'Oh no, here's another problem to solve.' I think, 'What a privilege to be serving the broken people. This is where God's blessing is found.'

"The real tragedy of leadership-as-performance is that it devalues the work of Christ. Our identity is not rooted in grace, but in the success of our ministry. And so we feel good when we have performed well and we feel down when things are not going well. We become enslaved to other people's approval. We are concerned to prove ourselves and that is just another way of talking about self-justification. We preach justification by faith on the day of judgment, but do not practice justification be faith in the daily routine of our lives. Our practical theology has become disconnected from our confessional theology. Our song becomes:
"My hope is built on something less
than Jesus´ blood and righteousness;
I trust my skills, I trust my fame
and maybe sometimes Jesus´name.

"But we cannot keep it up. Self-justification is always beyond us. The chorus of Edward Mote´s hymn which I have taken the liberty of inverting actually goes:"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand." Leadership-as-performance is sinking sand.

Total Church, pp.193-194

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