I recently had a conversation with a priest who said to me, "Mary, I am not the same priest I was five years ago. I realize now that evangelism is about a movement, it has very little to do with the institution." My reaction was "hallelujah"! We all need to understand that evangelism is a movement of God, a vibrant life giving and life changing story of Jesus and his teachings that have the power to turn people around, to reveal the nature of God, and to absolutely fill people with hope and peace and healing. Our institution is around to support this movement, pure and simple. Somehow we have gotten things mixed up. The institution of the church has a way of taking precedent in terms of our focus, resources, energy, and attention. It can easily become front and center, especially for those of us who have lived out our vocation in it. It only takes attending a few General Conventions to realize how easily one's attention gets skewed! General Convention consumes at least 9 very full days every 3 years for the people who are elected to represent their dioceses. It is an exhausting focus on democratic process and debate. Often about a bevy of insignificant resolutions, with an occasionally important one thrown in for good measure. I don't know why people feel they must submit resolutions that have very little capacity to impact anything, yet will certainly consume people's time and energy. I know. I have been in the thick of it as deputy, committee member, speaker and gopher. I decided a number of years ago that spending the better part of two weeks every Triennial with 5,000 other Episcopalians was not my calling nor the best use of my time. I often like the fellowship and networking, I just don't like the hyper focus on the institution and the way we do business.
I walk a fine line of dedicating my life in service to God and choosing to work for the institutional church. But I try hard to never forget its about the movement. I know this movement can not and should not be contained. However, we love containers. Especially ones with pretty stained glass and historic or sleek contents. I got a phone call yesterday from a person who viewed a utube video on a church's homepage. The caller asked if I had seen the video and commented that the first minute of it was pictures of the historic building without a person in sight. That church obviously wants the viewer to focus on the container.
It is so easy to be seduced by beautiful boxes. It is so easy to forget its about a movement of the Spirit. Let's be thoughtful and not give so much of ourselves away that we forget what really counts.
To be missionary is to move out. To be evangelical is to join a movement of the Holy Spirit. To be the church we must do both. Watch yourself and don't be seduced. Remember, its about the movement!