by Rod Nielsen
My dad, a long-time elder in the Church of Christ in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, sometimes talked with me about situations where one could see “I” problems. He meant that some people have a problem with their ego. They make decisions about the church and what the church is doing based on their personal preferences rather than on the Word of God.
In my years of being a preaching minister, I have witnessed this again and again. Well-meaning church members are sometimes critical of the church, what we did or how we did it simply because they did not like it, or we did not do it the way they would have preferred. While I appreciate that they care about what the church does and how we do it, “because I don’t like it” is not a very good point of reference.
M.C. Escher, the artist known for fascinating and bizarre drawings of impossible things, created one drawing he titled “Relativity.” The drawing depicts a building with stairs going every which way: up, down, left, right, sideways, upside down. There are people walking on the stairs as if gravity has no effect. Of course, as a viewer you know this is impossible. The drawing shows what the world would be like if there were no absolute point of reference. Turn the page around and around and you cannot find a single point of reference to know which way is up.
It is a statement about the impossibility of life without a single point of reference, an absolute up and down or absolute right and wrong. Our culture has rejected any sense of absolute right and wrong and it has disturbed a sense of moral compass in America. There are many examples of that which is good being called evil and that which is evil being called good. It does not work for a people to exist without a consistent moral compass.
In our churches we must have a clear and absolute point of reference of what is right and what is wrong. This is true for individuals and for the congregation. The Bible does not spell out everything the church must do or how we must do them. We are free to be creative as we live out our commission to make disciples.
So how do we determine what is good and what is bad for the church to do and how the church does it? That requires careful and prayerful trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What we must not do is try to accommodate every member’s preference. This is especially important for the men, Elders, who make portentous decisions for the church. It is necessary that we do not allow our own “I” problems to become our point of reference.
Whenever we are tempted to say, “I like this” or “I don’t like that” we should stop and remove the first-person pronoun and insert “God.” If we are still at peace when saying, “God likes this” or “God doesn’t like that,” then we are focused on the true point of reference.
Our creator God offers us an almost unlimited variety of things to do and methods of doing them. We are limited by our creativity and the true measure of right and wrong, the Word of God. Overcome our “I” problems to truly be a Holy Spirit led church.