Friday, April 13, 2007

who are we?

I just had the most interesting phone conversation. A lady from the Gideons called me to ask whether they could come to speak at our church. Somehow the conversation turned into her trying to define who I was and exactly what type of church we were. She wanted to know if we were apostolic, baptist, charismatic, believed in the five-fold ministry, in the fullness of the gifts, in prophecy, in healing, and whether I spoke in tongues. I said of course we believe in Jesus and the Bible and that God speaks to us today and wants to heal us. And I told her that I didn't know why this last bit of information about whether or not I spoke in tongues was relevant. Then she said it was obvious that I didn't and I said, hold on, you have just made an assumption that is not true, so she said...Oh, you do speak in tongues, so I again reiterated that she was assuming things and I still did not think that the question was relevant to our conversation. I explained that I don't like to define myself in those terms because people have different ideas of what those things mean and it ends up causing misunderstanding instead of clarity. She got flustered at me, uttered a "Bless you, dear," and hung up the phone.
After a brief shaking of my head (what just happened here?), talking to Dean about it and getting some perspective, and asking God for help to be clear and truthful, I called her back. I told her we would be happy to consider their request at our next leadership meeting and that due the diverse nature of people's backgrounds and understandings in our group, we really avoid using this type of terminology to define people. She told me she did not understand why I was being secretive and she just couldn't handle me not answering her direct questions which were were all scriptural terms anyway. I encouraged her to check out the Vineyard Canada website and said it could probably explain things more clearly than I could. She thanked me and the second conversation ended, somewhat more pleasantly than the first.
I know I tend to freeze somewhat when people demand that I tell them exactly who I am and what our church is about. How can you adequately describe a person, a living relationship with Jesus, or a community family in metamorphosis? Sigh. I guess I must find some words that will at least give some idea of the journey we are on, but I refuse to let something living and breathing be stamped simply as "apostolic" by someone who most likely means something quite different by the word than I do, and we both probably lack the proper understanding of the whole idea behind what Paul meant in the bible when he talked about apostles.
I suppose if we had both been better listeners instead of one person trying to slot another into their pre-defined categories and the other balking at this attempt, the conversation would have gone a lot better. I still don't think it is vital to know whether I speak in tongues or not (and Paul would back me up in this in 1 Corinthians 12:30) in order to know the depth or breadth of my relationship with Jesus. So here is my attempt to answer...who are we as a church?
We love God. We believe Jesus is the ONE and invite him everywhere: not only into our gatherings but into our everyday lives and into our intimate places to be our friend, our mentor, our Boss, our Healer, and the one who receives our worship. God can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, in whatever way he chooses and we want to be a people where he truly can exercise this. The Bible gives us an idea of those things he loves to do: change people for the better, make broken things whole, bring diverse people together, spread rightness and truth, be near us, and in the end, make us one with Him.
And for the record, I speak English, broken French, some Low German, and sometimes make odd noises when I pray.
This photo was taken from Mykonos restaurant, looking out at the Trash Bar (where the North Brooklyn Vineyard meets) on April 7, 2007.


Jill said...

This post was so long ago, I'm not sure you'll see this.(unless its tracked, then you will) I found you thru nakedpastor,and just been browsing and enjoying your writing. Your location got my attention, because I come to Montreal a few times a year because my inlaws live there. Anyway, totally relate to the difficulty in describing who I am and what my community (church) believes. Dont know why its so hard, just feels like it becomes something else when I try to nail it down. keep writing.........

Matte Downey said...

thanks, Jill. Yes, I do track the comments so I got it right away!