Form or Substance?
Once upon a time there was a small church in a small town. To be sure, that church hadn’t always been small, at one time it had been the second largest in the county, back when Taft was president. It was still one of the biggest around the time of the Second World War, but now it was almost forgotten. One day after a weeknight Bible study for which almost no one showed up, Jan, the only attendee was chatting with Pastor Jack about the state of things…
“We had more participation when we had a list of jobs for everyone to do,” Jan was saying, “but now that we don’t have lists of assignments for everyone, it doesn’t feel the same.”
“What kind of assignments were on those lists?” asked Pastor Jack.
“Well, I would post a list that said this couple was going to greet, and that person would lead the singing, and someone else would take out the trash and clean the restroom, and somebody else would cut the grass,” Jan replied.
“What was your job, Jan?”
“My job was making the list.”
“Ah, I see,” said Pastor Jack. “So how long did this list go on?”
“I started making the list about six years ago, and went until you came last year,” Jan said, “and while we did that, we were all united, we were One. But now it doesn’t feel like we are One any more, because we don’t have jobs assigned like we used to.”
Pastor Jack asked, “How many people came to church when you started the list?”
“Well let’s see… I think it was about 40 people in those days,” replied Jan.
“And did you post 40 jobs for people to do every week then?”
“Oh no, a lot of people didn’t do the jobs I put them down for, so I didn’t need 40 jobs. I only had enough jobs for the people who would follow though and do them.”
“So then this began with 40 people, and when I came last year there were only 9 people. Where did the other 31 go?”
“Well some of them left because we couldn’t keep a pastor around for very long; we had quite a few unfaithful pastors you see, and then the unfaithful ones who wouldn’t do their jobs from the list left because they never joined in our unity.”
“I see, and so you want to start making the list again, instead of me just asking people to do things, so that we can be ‘one’ again?”
Frustrated, Jan replied, “No, I want you to make the list!”
Filled with amazement and wonder, Pastor Jack asked, “So let me ask you Jan, are we One in doing jobs from a list, or are we One in Jesus Christ?”