Monday, January 21, 2008

Boundaries, Balance and Boldness

Maybe my “preacher” programming is permanent — a three-point title that alliterates...

I’ve been thinking about my ministry and my blog. Heart for God is a private, not-for-profit ministry that I started last spring after leaving the pastorate. The stated purpose is for preaching, teaching and spiritual direction. While spiritual direction is in a one-on-one setting, the preaching and teaching contexts can vary from retreats to mission/renewal services to classes in an established educational setting.

The boundaries for Heart for God are, on one end, orthodoxy, and on the other end, invitation and availability. In other words, my desire is to respond to any invitation to which I can be available (which also has boundaries such as time, accessibility and financing), and I want to be clear — up front — that I take biblical truth and the historical teachings of the Church seriously. Another way to say this is that Heart for God is ecumenical in scope; I hope to be able to minister across Evangelical and Catholic boundaries. Evangelicals need exposure to Catholics who are committed to Jesus in language that Evangelicals understand. Catholics need more of the “personal commitment” models often found in Evangelicalism. I am one of many people the Lord of the Church is raising up that is able to do this kind of “bridging.”

This raises an issue one might call balance. There are certainly divisive issues between Evangelicals and Catholics. Some, I think, are unnecessary if some semantics could be resolved, but it remains that there are some substantive issues that divide Christian Faith at large. There is a place for these to be discussed (intelligently and respectfully, as I said in the last post), but there is also a place for Evangelical and Catholic Christians to join together in core values that characterize some of the essence of Christian witness. There are social and moral issues where Evangelicals and Catholics already share a common voice. On a more individual faith level, growth in personal commitment, holiness and prayer are things that should epitomize every person who takes his or her Christian faith seriously. This is my passion with the Heart for God ministry. I do not desire to be divisive about the issues that do divide; I want to be a person who calls any who will hear to a greater love relationship with Jesus Christ. I want the “balance” of my ministry to be centered on what I’ve chosen as its name: a heart for God.

This requires a boldness of two kinds. First, there is a difference between saying differences do not matter at all and admitting that they do matter, but that orthodox Christians still have as much (or more) reason to unite in basic witness instead of dividing into hateful segments that sling mud at each other. What the world calls “tolerance” is not a Christian virtue, but a way of dismissing things that are not considered valuable. I want to be bold enough to say that I am a Catholic Christian and love the particular things that connect me to a Church that is almost 2000 years old. At the same time, I want to be bold enough to say that not all Christians are Catholic. Most of all I want to be bold enough to say that the most important thing for anyone is to confess openly that Jesus Christ is Lord... and to live in a way that shows the confession is real. That is what Heart for God is all about.

Let’s invite Jesus — daily — to be the love of our hearts.

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