Some years ago, in my younger, more brash days, I took a complete stranger to task. Well, at least that’s how it ended up going.
The impetus was a simple article in a church bulletin — not my church, but one in my college town that I have connections with. The subject was missing tables and chairs. Apparently, several of these items had been borrowed and had not been returned in a timely way, and the church office/ministerial staff was taking a hard line. Lots of “we” vs “you” language was used, and it … shall we say … piqued my interest. The staff was assuming and asserting authority over tables and chairs and people–strongly suggesting that they be returned.
Now, it’s fine to remind each other to be courteous and considerate, but the wording and assumptions can belie something unbiblical in terms of church hierarchy. If we’re not careful, in making it a “we”-must-remind-“you” thing, we may be perpetuating an authoritarian, institutional model of the church. Never should any church “officer” assert himself as dictator over the fellow subjects of our monarch, Jesus.
So, after writing an inquisitive, challenging letter to the church, I got a handwritten note back from an underling staff minister in which he took a condescending tone, didn’t answer any of my questions, and invited me to call “at my expense” if I were “indeed concerned.”
Well, pardon me, but I was obviously concerned, or I wouldn’t have taken the time to write a full-page letter. I think that spoke for itself. Yeah, I was a little out of line and apparently completely unwelcome in my epistolary “outreach” to this church that wasn’t even my church. I still think I was right, but I could have just left it alone.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a note about a similar problem appeared in our church bulletin at Lawson Road. I’m happy to report that this had a much better tone than the one from 1991 in Searcy, Arkansas:
Somehow, that sounds better to me. It sounds like “we’re all in this together” rather than “we are telling you what the rules are, and we are the boss of you.” Bravo, Tina and Lawson Road. Let’s all make church more of an “us” thing than a “we” vs. “you” thing.