One of the great aspects of the Gathering is the fact that we see ourselves as a worshipping community. Not that there is anything wrong with the traditional concept of church or worship, but as a “New Worshipping Community” we have a intentionality to what it means to be a community. This is not just in the fellowship, but how we go about worship in general.
Our concept, from the birth of the service, is that all who worship the Lord have an equal place within worship; however, to that end we all have been given different gifts that when those gifts are brought out enlivens our worship and deepens our experience of God.
Personally, I think clergy are good, not because it is my job, but because it is an important role in the church. I often think of Ken, my pastor growing up. Ken was the organizing pastor of the church and stayed for over 30 years; actually I think he still worships there. Ken was a special pastor who had many great skills, though preaching was not one of them! As kids we always looked forward to when the associate preached; the services were usually shorter and more entertaining.
Ken, however, had a knack for being present. No matter what was going on at the church, you could always find Ken, and he cared. Ken also had a great number of other strengths, which is why he was able to grow the church so much. However, what Ken was best at was helping people to find their true gifts and follow them.
I remember Ken’s advice when I told him I wanted to be a pastor; he said “Celebrate your member’s gifts, but don’t let them get bigger than they are, and the same goes for yourself!” It took me a long time to really understand what that meant, including working through Romans 12:1-8 many times. The thing is that often as Christians we take our gifts and give importance one of over the other. We learn this early in life.
Think about school. Often music and arts are seen as less important than reading and math. I won’t get into the school curriculum debate, but when you think about it because of this later in life if a child tells their parents they want to be a concert musician, often the response (and I know this from friends of mine) is “so what is going to be your real job?”
The reality of our community is that we need artists of all kinds and not just for entertainment, but they tell the stories and strengthen the community. The problem is that we place a value on people, not a value of importance, but a value of worth, saying that a person of one standing should be respected more than another. This is about the most anti-Christian way of living, because what God lays out for us is that there is a two-tier hierarchy in this world. At the top tier is God and on the second tier is everyone else!
This means that everyone has a valid and valuable role in the community. Thus, as a community we must both recognize that everyone has gifts and skills and learn how we can use those gifts and skills to lift up the community, so that we can all live fully with Christ.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen