By Paul Koch –
Throughout my career I have become quite comfortable being the a-hole in the room. Not that I’m a jerk (at least I don’t think I am), in fact I really enjoy my job and I revel in engaging in profitable discussions with my colleagues. I think I am an approachable guy, I like to laugh and tell stories, and I will willing share a beer with most anyone.
So whats the issue?
Well – I have come to realize that I suffer from a myopic condition. It wasn’t always there but it has been with me for some time now and it seems to be getting worse. You see, while I know there are a lot of problems in the church, a lot of issues that should and need to be discussed; I always default to one.
There is one thing that I think stands at the center and touches all of the other areas of discussion and that is the actual task of proclamation; the first order discourse, “I forgive you” work of God’s children.
Everything else moves toward this, everything else supports this, everything else aids us in doing this actual work. So I become the a-hole in the room because if we are not getting to this point of the discussion I get either visibly bored twitching in my chair or I get verbally abusive demanding that we get the the “real” issue (then again maybe I am a jerk).
I actually believe that many of the problems people like to discuss about the church aren’t really problems at all, they are simple distractions that keep the discussion anywhere and everywhere but on the actual proclamation of the Word. My myopic problem has turned me into a Sunday School student who answers every question with “Jesus.” Only I would say that whatever your question is the answer is surely “Proclamation.”
Graham’s recent article about the papacy is a good case in point. While thought provoking and challenging it did what it was intended to do, it created discussion. But if you are either pining for or fearing that Graham is the next Neuhaus ready to jump ship, you’ll be waiting for a long time. For the next time Graham is called to actually kill and make alive, when he is actually at the side of one of his soldiers broken in sin I can guarantee you papal headship will be the furthest thing from his thoughts. While the discussion is worthwhile it is beneficial only in how it can aid in the actual handing over of the gifts of Christ.
Therefore; the discussions and arguments that deal with church structure, apostolic succession, liturgy, evangelism, feast days, traditions, etc. will only be of great importance if they are separated from the actual people of God struggling to live out their given vocations. For once these issues are discussed within the context of the life of a struggling single mother or a newly retired grandpa they become useful insofar as they lead to what is truly important – the living Word.
Where they support, build up and guide God’s people to the Word that kills and makes alive they are good and glorious things to discuss and examine. But if they stay removed from the proclamation of the Word they will become bigger than they deserve and ultimately create a culture of spiritual masturbation where everyone is satisfying themselves and forgetting all about their neighbor.
Apparently my condition is only getting worse and I’ve decided not to fight it anymore. As we continue to examine just what the hell is going on let’s not forget that we already have the answer!