The Church needs shepherds, not cheerleaders

March 6, 2012

The Presbyterian Church USA continues to travel a difficult road that is exposing theological and hermeneutical fault lines within. In the midst of wading through these controversies it is easy to become self-justifying.

Richard John Neuhaus writes (Freedom for Ministry, p. 23):

We do not have to justify the Church. The magnitude of what is wrong with it does not mean, as some urge, that we should start saying what’s right with the Church. That way lies self-righteousness, smugness, and fact-denying illusion. The ministry is not the Church’s office of public relations, or it should not be. Our job is not to project a more positive ‘image’ of the Church, as that term is used in the communications media. Our task is to take seriously the biblical images or models of the Church that illuminate the Church’s full mission as the sign of humanity’s future. As we take this biblical understanding of the Church seriously, there is ever much in the empirical Church of which we must be relentlessly critical.

The next time you read a letter, and I don’t care who its from, that starts: “See, I am doing an new thing…” remind yourself that our job isn’t to give a pep rally for the Church–our calling is to guide and guard the church to be a faithful expression of the future of humanity.