But then again, last time I checked he didn’t claim to be Presbyterian, or Pentecostal, nor Anglican nor Adventist.  I think he’s above labels.  In fact, most would say he “self defines”.

I confess my bias.  I understand God in the “Judaeo-Christian” sense.  My religious experience hasn’t been universally explorative but I have had a very profound Christian experience with faith and to that end it  offers me sufficient satisfaction to embrace it as a very valid encounter with the divine.  I make it a practice to not enter into religious debates with people of other faiths except when their efforts to proselytize collide with my faith.  I will contend for the faith but I find my energies are better put into living the the faith and demonstrating the faith.  As the contemporary song writer penned too often “the words get in the way”.  I have a hard enough time actively loving the people God puts into my path that I don’t have a lot of additional energy to try and convince them logically, historically, situationally, nor theologically of  the correctness of my path.

But I digress.  God is not a Baptist.  But then again he isn’t a Presbyterian, nor a Pentecostal, nor an Anglican nor an Adventist.  People meet to experience God under those labels, and each one is meaningful.  I myself function in the Baptist tradition.  I believe in preaching, I believe in individual soul accountability, I believe in a local church’s responsibility to direct its own affairs without outside control or interference, I believe that the ultimate authority for congregational decisions rests in the recognized, gathered, membered community.  I believe the pastor has authority but it is granted him to hold gently by the congregation til they gather again to function as the local church body. That’s standard Baptist thinking .  (there is sub standard Baptist thinking too but that belongs in another post on another day).

When we are functioning well, we function very well.  But when we are stubborn, and defiant, and arrogant, and angry, … well that’s another story. We as Baptists don’t have an external authority that can enter into our midst and mandate our behaviours.  If we did, we’d be Presbyterian, or Anglican, or even Roman Catholic.  So, we sometimes behave poorly even embarrassingly.

In my day job, I am titled the “executive director of the denomination”.  It’s a position of influence and advice giving but not really one of authority and control.  Some days, I wish we were more Anglican–then I could put my bishop’s hat on and really act powerfully and authoritatively.  But then I’d cease to be a Baptist.  So, I enter into situations, listen, seek to understand, render advice, and sometimes feel pain when my good advice is ignored even dismissed.

But every once in a while, my good advice though offered and not taken, is not the key to a congregation’s remediation.  Sometimes, they figure it out for themselves and their solution “works for them” in a functional operatively Christian way.  I marvel when that happens because I realize that in my tradition, God is bigger than I am and is not bound by my finitude.  Sometimes God acts as his own bishop and just deals with stuff, to my amazement.  Sometimes God is not a Baptist.

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