Organizationally we may be suspected of incompetence, doctrinally we may be too diverse to qualify for "sound in the faith", we can certainly be accused of lacking a distinct vision for the "enterprise" (that's what one church consultant told me pastors should do - build an enterprise), and we don't always seem to attract the right kind of people . . . but this email today about the ladies' get-together last night is what being Christian means:
I wanted to thank you for a great evening. I've never been with that large a group of women who exchanged differing views and ideas with as much grace and respect, kindness and consideration and just good 'ole laughter as you all exhibited last night. From my perspective God was glorified.
God was definitely glorified - because love, kindness, gentleness, mercy, patience, joy, goodness, forgiveness, humility, grace, and respect were evidently present within that gathering last night! This is godliness. This is what it means to follow Christ.
Some might counter that this is not a zero-sum game. That we could embody all the first things I mentioned and still have the fruit of the Spirit, as in what I remarked was evidently shared last night.
I do tend to think that choices must be made. Emphasis has to be put in certain places, and not in others. Some values have to take precedence - and I do believe that institutional efficiency often is at odds with loving community. Maybe we can't have it all. Maybe structured efficiency is somehow less than merciful, patient, and gracious - and so when cultivated hinders the others' growth.
Could it be that a distinct "entrepreneurial" vision will at some level undermine respectful, diverse, and kind dialogue? Could it subvert the practice of loving my neighbor? It just might be that we can't have both as equal emphases.