In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he pleased.
Sometimes our approach to the Christian life reminds me of the Israelites in the book of Judges. No king, no leader, so people just did what they want it. Time and time again this approach led to disaster of one kind or another. God would raise another leader but soon, once that leader was gone, the people would “forget” what God had told them.
We like to say in clergy circles that we are there to empower the laity for ministry. Each of us interprets it in different ways. I think at its core its about reminding the people of the covenant, of telling the story of faith, and calling the people to the promises made.
So it means that we are not to just let the people of God do what they want. Guiding the church in whatever way they see fit, being the kind of church they want to be, just patting people on the back and hoping that our “care” will be enough for them to become God’s people in their community.
Here comes the difficult part. Sometimes this means that as we care for souls, as we call them to the covenant, some will choose to not live into the covenant that we are calling them to. Some might tell us that their spiritual life is not of our business, others just want to “hear a good sermon” and go home, still others want “good programs for their kids to go to” without any desire to be real disciples of Jesus. What are we to do then? Are we to just let them do what they want?
I don’t believe so for our churches and I certainly do not believe so for our pastors. You see we have a similar problem in our clergy ranks. Time and time again we want to do our thing, not wanting to be accountable to one another for our growth in love, not wanting anyone to “question” our progress in our “going on to perfection.” If we as clergy are not willing to grow in our discipleship then how can we expect our churches to do so?
I trust that God will continue to raise leaders for the church to be reminded of their story, be gathered to praise God, and be empowered by the Spirit to be about God’s work in the world. I also know that there are many in our communities who long for God and are waiting to find a place where they are formed in another way, where they fill their deepest hunger.
May we be a led people, clergy and laity alike, may we live into the covenant, may we do as the Spirit pleases!