March 2013

March 1, 2013

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

The installation of the New Archbishop of Canterbury and the resignation of the Bishop of Rome have prompted me to reflect on the nature of the church recently. During this time I have read Bible passages and attended a conference on Growing The Church In The Power Of The Holy Spirit. By the church I do not mean the Beacon but the Church worldwide, the Body of Christ on earth, of which the Beacon is but part.

It seems to me that the Church, both corporately and individually, is far from what Jesus intends it to be. Whether the Church is hierarchal or conciliar, whether it is autocratic or democratic it has got it wrong. The church is not meant to make decisions by the pronouncement of one individual or by the vote of a group of people, even acting on the advice of a wider group. The church is supposed to discern the will of Christ and then act upon it, it should make decisions as prompted by the Holy Spirit not in response to the loudest voice or the most persuasive argument.

This is something that can not be taught or learned, it is revealed as Christians draw close to God in the daily life and invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit. Having said that I can, I hope, demonstrate what I mean. My body is a complex organism made up of many parts, each with a purpose. These many parts do not, normally, act independently but they are controlled by the brain. I decide to get up out of the chair to make a cup of coffee and my brain sends messages to limbs and muscles to enable that to happen. Of course if it is not coffee but alcohol and I have too much of it, my body does not always respond to the messages from the brain correctly. The alcohol impairs the process. If I am sitting at the dinner table cutting a piece of steak then my body sends messages to enable the arm to raise the hand with the fork in it and my mouth to open to receive the food and initiates the chewing and swallowing processes. Normally it all works well and I do not spill anything. The parts of my body do not act independently, they are under the control of the mind, powered by the central nervous system.

The church is the body of Christ, Jesus is the mind, we are the parts, the Holy Spirit is the central nervous system. Yet far too often the Church acts without consulting Jesus and even more often without waiting for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. No wonder we finish up in a mess. We spent interminable hours debating, even wrestling with issues and then ask God to bless what we have decided, which is often what we wanted to do anyway. We spend far too little time reading the Scriptures together, praying together and discerning the will of Christ. I believe that we have to alter the balance and spend more time with Christ and less time in discussion. But even doing that will not change anything unless we stop seeing the Church as an organisation or social club to be run by us and start seeing it as Christ’s body on earth. We have to approach each decision we need to make with a genuinely open mind, enquiring of Jesus what he would have us do. To do this honestly, with integrity, means we have to spend more and more time in worship, prayer and Bible study seeking to know the will of Christ.