This weekend it occurred to me that the message we too often send about what it means to be a Christian is dangerously close to being heretical. I will leave it up to you to decide whether it is truly a heresy or something else…here is the message:
Say a simple prayer.
Show up at some kind of church on occasion.
Be a good American.
Go to heaven.
Do we truly believe that this is what Christ had in mind when he died a painful and humiliating death? Was this the message that all of the disciples of Jesus were tortured for, and most killed for? A simple safe religion that allows you to do whatever you want as long as it “looks nice” and fits the American ideal? Are 2.5 kids a 3 car garage and white picket fence Christs’ answer for your life? Or is there something more?
Today we are studying Latin American Theology, primarily Liberation Theology, and Dr. Siu mentions how in Latin America their focus is on orthopraxy, or correct practice of Christianity, while in Western cultures (the US and western Europe) we are concerned with Orthodoxy, correct belief. Both are problematic.
If we focus on Orthopraxis without orthodoxy then how do we know it is orthopraxy? I think that orthopraxy is that which flows out of orthodoxy, but this also is a problem. In the West we know what to believe, we logically assent to orthodox formulations of the nine major doctrines which make up our systematic theology. However, we tend to state them in such a way that logical assent is both the beginning and the end of our theology. “if you just believe in Christ you will be saved”. However, Christ called us not just to “believe” he called us to be like Him. In fact in the very early church we know that the “Christians” were not then known as Christians but as “followers of the way”, we find the first reference to “Christians” in Acts 11:26. While I do not have a problem with the term itself, and in fact love the term, there is a reality that is brought out byt using the term “follower of the way”.
We do not follow a system of beliefs only, we follow the God-man Christ Jesus. It is our goal to be like Him. It is and should be our goal to have orthopraxis as well as orthodoxy. It is the system of doctrines and beliefs which help us to understand and govern how we live but the ultimate goal is orthopraxis, which flows from our orthodoxy.
I am often critical of the church and of pastors, and I believe there is much to be critical of. However, I want to be clear that because I spend a lot of time thinking about how pastoral and church ministry should be done and am not afraid to espouse my views I do so not with a heart to stand and point the finger or condemn, but to call us to a better way, God’s way to the very best of my understanding.
I have been in ministry and have felt the burden of ministry, and at this point in my life I have the opportunity to stop and reflect on the mistakes and successes of those ministries and it is my hope that in my future ministries I do it better.
In the ministries in which I have worked I often found myself exhausted and yet the pace of ministry refused to slow down for me to find rest. This seemed a never ending problem and one that I often did not deal with well.
I think that one of the biggest issues for the minister is to try to be the superstar and take on everything. We take on so many burdens that I do not know Jesus ever intended us to take on. We are all familiar with Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus tells “all who are weary and heavy laden” to come to Him. It is a favorite passage for Pastors and ministers to teach to others, but I would suggest that it may be one of the most important passages for the minister to take to heart.
Good ministers are often overcome with the great responsibility of their position. We take on the burdens of others and tend to be hard on ourselves for our failures and our fundamental inability to make people change. We feel the burden for the souls that have been placed under our care and want to represent the Word of God faithfully. The demands of ministry are seemingly never ending; truly the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. We often have a tendency to take this burden on truly believing we have to do everything, and in fact that may be the expectation of many of the people whom surround us.
When we as ministers feel that burden then maybe it is time for us to take pause and recognize that it is time for our souls to find rest in Jesus. Hand over the heavy burdens of ministry and allow Jesus to replace them with His burden which is light.