St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Friday, September 17, 2004 ::

Adding Our Contributions to the Church

Everyone seems to want their own ministry these days.

Growing up in an evangelical culture meant that if one wasn't: fundraising to be a missionary in a foreign country (apparently one's immediate surroundings were already part of the Kingdom), working towards being hired as a youth pastor (the only "cool" pastoral role) or playing in, or better yet, leading a "worship team," than one wasn't *really* a Christian.

Daily prayer, confession, fasting, participation in the sacraments, communal living, scripture and patristic study, meditation, serving one's family; that which makes for the foundation of the Christian life seemed a bit out of place in an extroverted Christian world eager to pit the contemplative against the active as if the latter trumped the former.

The hidden assumption many us have about our life in the Church, ISTM, is that one must be contributing something of visible "worth" to the community or that outward "activities" and trademarked "ministries" are the goals one strives for as a Christian. A Pragmatic Pelagianism, of sorts. Holiness, purity of heart, victory over passions, union with God....all take a back seat to the particulars of the "purpose driven life."

Timothy Copple warns inquirers when he notes that "the idea that the Church is going to be hurt if I don't join or that my contribution has some importance to the Church overall is a matter of pride and runs counter to the ethos of humility and contentment which is at the core of Orthodoxy spirituality."

"Will we add something? Sure, but we don't come in with that as a central goal or purpose. Rather, we come in to submit to what the Church is and be formed by [her way of life]. Only when we have been formed by the Church can our own contributions, whatever those might be, have any impact and value beyond our own prideful heart."

Now, we know St. Paul certainly encourages us to "strive to excel in building up the church" (1 Cor 14:12) and that each are given gifts "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:12). There isn't anything wrong with the ministries and activities that any healthy Christian community must endeavor to do.

So the question isn't so much whether or not ministry/activity/work is good, but rather a) is it what I'm called to do b) does it distract me from the "one thing needful" c) is it being done at the right time and place d) are the motivations coming from a desire to serve God and love my neighbor or from something else; whether an attempt to heal a deep psychological wound or fulfill a warped theology of Christian praxis?

As St. Seraphim of Sarov says, "Note well that it is only good works done in the name of Christ that bring us the fruits of the Spirit."

:: Karl :: 7:57:00 AM [Link] ::

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