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'What should we say?'

by Rodger Johnson (WordAlone board member, New Braunfels, Texas)

January 15, 2009

photo of Rodger Johnson "What I should have said was ...." How many times have you said that out loud or to yourself after you have had a conversation with someone? It happens to me frequently and most recently after a meeting with fellow church members in which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was being discussed. My church is going through a change and at times it is painful. The draft "Social Statement on Human Sexuality" and other issues being dealt with by the ELCA are precipitating much of the change.

Many, or I could say most, members of my congregation were not aware of the social statement and other issues until recent times. They were content to attend church, trust their pastors and church leadership and go about their daily lives. With their awakening to the events going on in the ELCA, my fellow church members are discovering there are a lot of questions to be asked and information to be had. Some are not driven to learn of all the issues, just state their opinions based on personal information. Many are questioning why we are members of the ELCA and many resist the thought of making a change.

In the meeting in which we had our discussion, statements were made such as, "I am liberal in my thinking and ...," or "I believe that ...," "I think ..." and so on. Do you notice who was the center of the thoughts, that each thought focused on the word "I"? Opinions were discussed, and compelling thoughts of the beliefs were made, but everything centered on personal beliefs.

So, what was wrong with our discussion? We were intending to talk about Christ's Church, His Word.

Actually, we were discussing our lifestyles, how we live our lives as an example for others to witness. You may have figured out what was wrong with our discussion; God was left out. At no point did anyone refer to God's Word as a guide; and I should mention that there were three pastors in the meeting.

A day later I was having a discussion with one of the pastors who had been present at the meeting. Continuing on the conversation from that previous night concerning Scripture, the pastor made the statement, "You know there are more than one interpretation of Scripture."

I asked the question, "Which interpretation do you believe in?"

The question was not intended to be sarcastic, but to try to get an explanation of how he believed in such a statement. His answer came in the form of silence.

What should I have said?

In the echoes of my mind I have had many thoughts. I am sure none of them could have been expressed in a way that would have changed minds at the meeting. What I do know is that we, as people, look to ourselves for answers. We forget about God when seeking answers or we believe that God agrees with our thinking.

Considering my thoughts on God's being left out of giving direction to our churches and our lives brought to my mind the "potter and the clay" image. We, as people who profess Christ as our Savior, either have become so self-centered and rigid in our thinking that we resist the Potter shaping us, or we want to become the potter and reshape God. So, what should I have said or what can we say, as faithful followers, to return us to God's Word?