Beverly Donofrio had just been “looking for a monastery to join, for Christ’s sake.” She had closed her laptop, having bookmarked religious communities she might write to, then had fallen into a deep sleep. During the night she was raped at knife point in her home in Mexico.
"Jesus calls us to make disciples, not just converts," says Todd Friesen of Lombard Mennonite Church in Illinois. "I believe that discipleship begins in communal worship."
The early church fathers had a saying: "The best bishop is a bad bishop." In other words, we sometimes grow more through adversity than we do by encouragement and supportive spiritual direction.
It's easy—from the comfort of my desk, where I’m healthy, well fed and securely employed—to experience a sense of "enough," as I wrote last week. It’s easy to champion compassion, justice and peace (what's not to like?), even when it puts me at odds with a few biblical texts.
The commandments and promises of God are easy to find: they're right there in the Bible. But my students have something else in mind when they refer to "God's will," though it's not easy to say what.
It’s beautiful when the congregational system is humming along—the church is Spirit-filled, worshipers are bearing each other’s burdens, submitting to one another and rejoicing continually. When faced with major decisions, the congregation seeks the Lord and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. After prayer and copious dialogue, a consensus emerges. Or the congregational system hits a pothole. The decision-making process is accelerated or compressed for a decision that has huge implications for the life of the church; the issues raised are theologically profound and the consequences painful no matter what is decided. At these times, a congregation can see its unity shattered.