Thursday, October 31, 2013
From ‘ministry’ to a culture of living free
Calvin, one of the great fathers of Reform in the 16th century in Geneva. Priesthood and ceremonial was replaced by preaching – but the preacher became a ‘priest writ large’ as some critics suggested, with a marked separation between the one in the pulpit and the rest standing (in this case) below. It would take another four centuries and charismatic renewal to see this one-to-many pattern change, through enabling leadership, into many-to-many.
YESTERDAY we saw how a call to proclaim freedom to captives was a call for us to live free, too. From my experience, the way this works is as a lifestyle, encouraged by being in a church where being free is the lifestyle.
In the past we might have relied on an event, or a residential somewhere. Helpful though these may be, I have learned that these restrict the benefit to a small number, and those people don’t always sustain their growth. The experience of others points to a better way – becoming a church with a Jesus-centred freedom culture, where the proclaiming or sharing of this happens naturally through a whole network of coaching relationships.
I grew up as a Christian in the era of so-called’ specialist ministry’ and have seen many people wonderfully freed up – but in the early days it was not always as sensitive and kind as we would like. Power encounters, on the whole, are not helpful. Yes, Jesus did this, but that doesn’t mean we should do the same unthinkingly. Before the resurrection the Old Covenant was still in place. Following the Cross and Resurrection everything changed. Now believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit to use words of authority and make choices and declarations. It’s a different fight – the fight of faith through humility and repentance (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6) which dashes the enemy’s legal rights to oppress.
Where is this in the passage? Well, it doesn’t read like that. It reads like Jesus, or His representatives, proclaim freedom for people who are struggling. However, in a New Testament context – the church in other words – we do better to do it a New Testament way. ‘Priest and people’ is an Old Testament model (although still perpetuated in many churches). Being devoted to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42) is transitional. This moves on to being a ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:9) and the strong emphasis on ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ (e.g. Romans 12:10, James 5:16) we see in the New Testament letters.
Now we can proclaim freedom to captives in a better way – in a fellowship where all of us former captives are just the right kind of people to gently unburden others.