Monday, June 16, 2008

Bridge Inspection

(Revised Tuesday, 9 a.m.)

There's a lot of focus on gusset plates these days. It's the gusset plates that failed on the I35 bridge. Those connecting points are important.

But what about the column supports? A church member who understands these things took time to talk with me recently. He pointed out that, no matter how strong a structure is, it needs to rest on supports that are well designed and strongly built.

On what does the church rest? Can the denomination or "big church" be compared to the columns on which the local church stands? Ultimately, no, because we rest on God's Word. But, in a sense, yes, and that's because of me.

If the church is like a bridge, each of us is a structural member (though not bolted in place!). Each of us is equally important. Pastors, however, play an especially critical role. Pastors are usually the connecting point between pillar and beam, connecting denomination and member. The number of church members who are in regular every day connection with the "Big Church" is very small. The connection is mostly through the pastor.

In our church, the pastor has a relationship with the denomination before they come to the church. Pastors have strong loyalties to their church bodies. Sometimes it's a happy relationship, sometimes it's more ambivalent. But the pastor-denomination relationship is almost always older than the pastor-local church relationship. And some pastors will fiercely defend their denomination - to the end.

I encourage you to do a bridge inspection. Don't only look at the beams and gusset plates of the local church. Learn about the "big church," in our case the ELCA and the Southwestern Minnesota Synod. Check out those pillars. Make sure they're strong, sure, and standing on solid rock.

Otherwise, you'll always be at the mercy of your pastor.

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