Just a few thoughts this morning as I continue my journey toward my 66th birthday. As I have now shared with several, I am feeling a little more comfortable with my opinions given the large amount of data storage that has occurred during these years. Humble, working on it; scholar hardly; biblically literate yes, if reading the texts hundreds of times during my last forty years counts.
I have now served some of the best senior pastors in the nation, in both small and large churches and among a myriad of denominations. I have experienced the ongoing attempts at resolution of congregational conflicts, worship challenges within multiple generations, certain cultural and ethnic bents that tend to segregate the Body of Christ, thus on and on go the heart rendering grievances within and between denominations as spiritual preferences vary, though we all agree that there is only One Spirit.
Of course having been raised Pentecostal, there has always been an explanation for our folk when they feel less of the Presence in other churches, those that do not practice a second definite work of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. However, we seem to have the same challenges, both intergenerational, racial and even among the many Pentecostal denominations; many clergy and laity work within the same regional geography but hardly associate and seem always in competition for church goers.
As I get older, possible braver, my intent is to leak out the internal dialogue that often accompanies my meditation of the scriptures and personal reading. Perhaps this is one of those that needs to be discussed.
Of late, I have read a book entitled “How God Changes Your Brain” by Andrew Newberg, a neurologist. The title may be somewhat misleading and at this mid-point in the book, seems purposed to attract a certain market of reader to explain the amazing power of the brain to generate neurons (dendrites and ganglia, obviously above my pay grade), “God-cells” that impact the way one does or does not sense spiritual matters. It almost seems there is a natural accommodation for a Higher Being, though of different proportions, among all humans; even atheist must work hard to deny it. Job implied the same about all creation (“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. 8″Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. 9″Who among all these does not know That the hand of the LORD has done this,..”Job 12:7-9).
I have to wonder, if some of the challenge within the Body of Christ and in fact all who profess some modicum of spirituality, is not the lack of discernment between our own brains attempt to define God and an authentic relationship with the Being we call God. Perhaps without that spiritual discipline we become locked into a preference so idiosyncratic that our tendency is to huddle with others of similar bent, and not do the hard work or at least setting aside time to contemplate and nurture that relationship.
This may explain how people of such similar beliefs as those professing some variant of Protestantism, even the more convincing evangelical, not to speak of other monotheistic religions, can literally go to war in the name of God, as we are now experiencing.
Neither does it help when professional clergy develop and nurture institutions that disagree. Those institutions then authorize positional leadership that when in agreement with others of their own God understanding prescribe worship and systematically provide events that sometimes serve only to release individuals from any personal accountability for a lasting and unique relationship with God, beyond what is experienced in those one time or weekly events. Not saying church going is bad, but perhaps we need to re-think why so much of America’s revenue stream goes into brick and mortar, such growing numbers are abandoning our places of worship, while our nation becomes more needy and it appears at times, morally bereft.
Just a few thoughts from an old churchman.