Individual Christians are not the Body. They are its members, and in a human body, “all the members have not the same office.” The ear must not imagine itself to be an eye. No amount of prayer will give sight to the ear – but the whole body can see through the eye. (page 191).
An all too common attitude to the things of the Lord is that “What I know, I know; and what I don’t know, I don’t know, and can do quite well without” But in Christ, the things we do not know, others do, and we may know them and enter into the enjoyment of them through others. (page 192)
The Body is not an illustration but a fact. (page 192)
God does not blame me for being an individual but for my individualism. His greatest problem is not outward divisions and denominations that divide his Church but our own individualistic hearts. (page 193)
The life of Christ in me will gravitate to the life of Christ in others. I can no longer take an individual line. Jealousy will go. Competitions will go. Private work will go. My interest, my ambitions, my preferences all will go. It will no longer matter which of us does the work. All that will matter will be that the Body grows. (page 194)
Talks of the final state of the body, as talked about in Ephesians 5.
She is without spot (the scars of sin), wrinkle (the signs of age) or blemish (so she cannot be accused) (page 195)
Sin, self-reliance and individualism were Satan’s master-strokes at the heart of God’s purpose in man and in the Cross, God has undone them. (page 195)
Whilst it’s true that a Lone Ranger can learn a lot through self-study, Lone Rangers (and even Brains on a Stick who know the Bible inside out) aren’t exempt from need-to-know and need-to-grow moments. Yet when they are faced with one, their isolation guarantees that the only thing they’ll know is what they already know.
As for wise counsel, a warm hug, or a swift kick in the rear, those are rather hard to self-administer. If we don’t have those kinds of relationships in place, it’s usually too late to pull them together once a need-to-know or need-to-grow crisis hits with full force.
From Michael Gove:
….perhaps the most powerful lesson from abroad that I’ve learned in this job comes from Kenya – from the Masai people of that nation. Whenever one Masai greets another they ask a question – Kasserian Ingera? Not “how do you do” or “how’s it going”, but “how are the children”? It’s wonderfully revealing about the values of Masai society – their first concern is the next generation. And the hoped-for reply is equally revealing: “all the children are well”. Not my children. Not some of the children. All the children are well. For the Masai, society cannot be well unless all the children are well. The question the Masai ask each other is revealing not just of their society – but of ours. Whatever tests we set ourselves – and whatever achievements we boast of – the question that goes to the heart of the health of our society should be the same – how are the children?”
In modern societies, these ‘Calvinist’ systems have a dark and oppressive reputation, but we forget that they worked because people wanted them to work. Rates of reoffending were low. Reformed discipline provided structures for controlling a frighteningly violent and arbitrary world, and involved the whole community in doing so. (MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, page 638)
– Why is that I want to succeed so badly in my ministry? Is it out of need to prove my worth and value or is it because I am a good steward of my gifts and talents? What is going on beneath the surface of my life?
– Why do I avoid confronting difficult people at Church? Is it because I am trying to model humility and peacemaking or is it because I don’t want to be rejected?
– Why am I so rigid about dropping everything to return my phone calls and emails? Is it because I want to please people? Is it because I want everyone to think I’m competent as a leader?
“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people” – Richard Foster.
“Al men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” – Pascal
3. Linking the Gospel and Emotional Health
“If God ever allowed us to see more than 1 per cent of our sin, we would fall down dead.”
“you can be yourself because there is nothing left to prove.”
Final quote is from Glittering Images by Susan Howatch.
4. Getting rid of the “Glittering
Almost everyone finds their early days in a community ideal. It all seems perfect. They feel they are surrounded by saints, heroes, or at the least, most exceptional people who are everything they want to be themselves. And then comes the let-down. The greater their idealisation of the community at the start, the greater the disenchantment. If people manage to get through this second period, they come to a third phase – that of realism and true commitment. They no longer see other members of the community as saints or devils, but as people – each with a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, each growing and each with their own hope. The community is neither heaven nor hell, but planted firmly on earth, and they are ready to walk it, and with it. They accept the community and the other members as they are; they are confident that together they can grow towards something more beautiful.
– Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities.
From John Howard Yoder (June 13th in Common Prayer)
The work of God is the calling of a people, whether in the Old Covenant or the New. The church is then not simply the bearer of the message of reconciliation, in the way a newspaper or a telephone company can bear any message with which it is entrusted. Nor is the church simply the result of a message, as an alumni association is the product of a school or the crowds in a theatre are the product of the reputation of the film. That men and women are called together to a new social wholeness is itself the work of God, which gives meaning to history.”
Mildred, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several members did not approve of her extracurricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused Frank, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one after noon..
She emphatically told Frank (and several others) that every one seeing it there WOULD KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING !
Frank, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing.
Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house … Walked home .. . .and left it there all night.
(You gotta love Frank!)
Community Ministry and Pastoral Care
Anne Morisy – Beyond the Good Samaritan
Morisy makes a number of points about Pastoral Care, and its complementary relationship with Community Ministry.
Community ministry provides the possibility of “warm encounters” in between the “hot encounters” of baptisms, weddings and funerals; and the “cold encounters” of knocking on people’s doors.
Community ministry provides a second framework which can challenge structures of injustice which create people’s need for pastoral care. It compliments of the tendency of faith to only deal with psychological well being, and reduces Christian faith to a personal immorality fetish.
Community ministry, in its many questions, counters the desire for certainty which overtakes the ability to stay in touch with reality. It forces us into a difficult place of questions, and yet also of commitment.
Community Ministry involves:
- The ability to face rather than avoid reality, often with all its harshness
- Counteracting any sense of impotence about being able to work for betterment
- Seeing beyond the familiar patterns and roles which contribute to a “taken for granted” view of reality
- Envisioning a different future “Could we?” “Would it be possible to?”
Modern life exhibits what Cox describes as a “Playpen culture” (page 34) in which abrasive aspects of life are “organised”: double glazing keeps out noise and draughts, the security alarm keeps out the burglar, central heating keeps the whole house warm, and the latest “over the counter” medication chases away aches and pains.
Community ministry rescues pastoral care from its critics. By themselves, acts of caring transmit the assumption that the best a distressed person can hope for is to acquire the ability to adapt with less distress to circumstances that cannot be changed. The concern is that unbridled provision of “acts of caring” when applied in isolation from any other strategy lead to an acceptance of unjust situations.
Oden is very critical of the influence of counselling on modern pastoral care. It is has created (page 39) “autonomous individualism”, “naturalistic reductionism”, “narcissistic hedonism”. The call to work for the Kingdom of God, to embrace a struggle wider than one’s own is surely on of the distinguishing marks of Christian Counselling.