Moltmann on Church Reform

Happy Halloween, all! Today’s Moltmann quote comes from The Church in the Power of the Spirit in a section about the form of the church as fellowship on page 317:


The church will not overcome its present crisis through reform of the administration of the sacraments, or from the reform of its ministries. It will overcome this crisis through the rebirth of practical fellowship. The reforms of evangelization and the administration of the sacraments, and the inescapable reform of the church’s ministries, will spring from the rebirth of fellowship and friendship among the rank and file. The one certainly cannot take place without the other, but the starting point lies in the congregation and its form as fellowship. Fellowship in word and sacrament, fellowship in the profession of faith, fellowship in the institution and the  hierarcy, become lifeless and are petrified into formalities with which people can no longer identify themselves, if fellowship among the congregation’s rank and file is lost, and if friendship is not recovered from the ‘grass-roots.'”


I like this section for at least two reasons. One, I confess that I just might explain my entire task as a pastor of an emerging community of faith by saying it is an attempt at rebirthing practical fellowship. What I mean by that is we try to structure our communal life in such a way that it gives us the tools and practices we need to become who we think we ought to be becoming. What I also mean by that is participation in the life of the community itself is a practice, because if you stick around long enough you will have to endure some conflict, or personality issues, or differences of opinion, and it’s in those moments where the fellowship can really give way to practical Christian life application. (Not to make it sound like a title on the front cover of a trendy new Bible) If we want to reform, there’s no shortcut. It’s a lot of practice, every day, with the same people, continually seeking those places of growth and grace. The hidden shadow-point Moltmann makes here is that the church can be a place where practical fellowship is less than fully present…a gauge which we should take seriously if we’re pastors.

The second reason is that I believe firmly in the power of friendship. I believe firmly in its transformational power, to put it more strongly. It’s why I continue to give my time and energy to the work of Emergent Village. It’s why I believe in keeping intentional friendships with other clergy across a number of denominational lines. It’s why I enjoy hanging out with people whose thoughts vary greatly from my own. Reform happens in, with and through friendship. It’s true personally, and it’s true communally.

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