Saturday, June 30, 2007

Potential

This week marks the final week of one my church's staff members. Her name is Barbara and she has served at our church for well over 20 years in various capacities. Her compassion and heart is legendary in our area and quite a challenge to a person such as myself who scores negative on the mercy scale. We gathered together as a church staff to honor her with a going away luncheon this past Tuesday. During that time, as is customary with our group, we took time to share stories or thoughts about what made her special. It was touching to listen to the various people share how Barbara had touched their lives whether through doing something, or just being her natural self.

Barbara was known throughout our church and community as a person you could get help from. It might be help for an overdue electric bill, or groceries, or something else. Those of us on the side of cynicism tended to see this as empowering them to take advantage. She never saw it that way. One of the comments that touched me the most was about just this issue. Countless person would come through making the church rounds seeking help for their disinterested lifestyle and she would help however she could. Why did she do it again and again?

"She always saw what that person could be, instead of what they currently were."
She always saw the potential of that person in God's eyes rather than looking at the outward appearance of that person. She never let the outward look prevent her from trying to help. God designed her with that sort of compassion and she discovered it while living it to the fullest.

Potential
is an interesting word. We at church are often guilty and caught up in expecting a sinner to be anything other than a sinner. Many years of self-focused church inbreeding has created an atmosphere of conformity to certain priestly defined standards. We so often look at an unchurched person with an expectancy that he or she will meet our standards before attempting to join our community of like-minded fellowship. The Gospels are essentially story after story of Jesus interacting with lost people in whom He saw their potential for the Kingdom of God. Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, blind people, lame people, diseased people, Peter, Andrew, and even Judas were all benefactors of Jesus' slow march to judgment.

What about the potential found in the beliefs and thoughts of others within our own community? We, as the SBC, are a conditional cooperative conglomerate of like-minded churches who have united to create a greater global reach with the truth of the gospel. We are conditional because we have united to establish a confessional statement, which seeks to bind us together in essential beliefs. Beyond this confession there may or may not be a disparity of viewpoints on a myriad(shoutout to TWT) of non-essential issues. We are a cooperative group due to our agreement to pool our resources, namely cold hard cash, to create and maintain entities that further or supposedly gospel-focused agenda through missions (both local and global), academic training, and resources. We are a conglomerate because our genetic make-up as a convention is thousands of individually autonomous churches and millions of individually created and redeemed believers.

What happens if we cease to see potential in each other? What happens if we seek to remove those who are not like-minded in non-essentials from our midst? What happens if we censure and conflict with those who do not hold to all our personal scriptural interpretations? What happens if we remove the voice of what we could be? Jesus looked past the ravenously murderous appetite of a man named Saul and raised up the greatest missionary the church has known. When will we do the same?

When an organization of religious foundation and purpose ceases to work together in spite of minor differences and moves to establish homogeneous principles in all matters of doctrinal belief it crosses from being a movement of the Holy Spirit to being a legalistic enforcement of Pharisaical rules and regulations. It becomes unbiblical, while attempting to be as biblical as it can be.

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