The Home as the Little Church: More on "Ministries"
Tripp (the "AngloBaptist") made a comment on last Friday's post that deserves a longer reply. He writes,
"I am Baptist and in seminary the general line of teaching is that if you want people to stay in your church (church growth yada yada) you have to get them involved. Otherwise they do not feel appreciated or a part of the community....we seem to be saying that the opposite edifies us. Certainly it is a both/and thing and the introvert/extrovert thing may play a small part. Still, I think it is a misunderstanding of the function of that building called church. What do y'all think?"
That is a great question and an important issue. Let me throw out some thoughts:
I liked something RC priest Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus (of First Things fame) said at a lecture the other day. He quipped, "The Church isn't an institution like the Rotary or the Elks--it is first of all a family."
I think when people say they want to be involved, they mean something more psychological and spiritual than organizational. IOW, they want to be part of an adventure bigger than themselves, they want to be loved and feel that not only what they do *but who they are* matters and can be made whole. It isn't so much the activities we crave but the community, relationships, and healing that sometimes (but rarely) comes to life from the myriad of activities most churches peddle as "God's work."
Here is where the Orthodox concept, coined by St. John Chrysostom, really shows itself as part of the answer: the home as "the Little Church."
I think one of the reasons for the disconnect many of us feel is that most of us do not have a Christian praxis in our daily home life that resonates and draws from the Church's liturgical and sacramental life.
There is something powerful about having a rule of prayer, using an icon corner, following the fasts, working as a family to do acts of mercy for our immediate neighbors, teaching our children about the history of the Church, reading Scripture and the Lives of the Saints, etc .... and then doing this again in the larger context of the liturgy and fellowship of the Church. The active life grows organically from the inner; it rarely works in reverse.
It is when we have a synergy between church and home that we understand several important truths, three of which being:
1) The Church as it manifests itself as an institution and our "ministries" derive their existence and worth from the ontological reality of God's presence in the Church's sacramental and liturgical experience and our participation in that life, rather than the other way around.
2) The Christian life is for the healing of our souls and for fostering the fruits of the Spirit in our daily lives and from this can all outward/extroverted "activities" and "ministries" also bear fruit.
3) What Ann said in a previous comment: that the Church exists for us, not us for it. In Orthodoxy this is hard to miss since we are not the creators of the Church, but the recipients.