I am taking a one-week break from the ongoing series Reflections on Worship in the Contemporary American Church to offer a thought on and a prayer for Willow Creek Community Church (and for all of us). Lord willing, I will return to the reflections next week.
I have hitherto not offered any public comment on the ongoing situation at Willow Creek Community Church, one that first rocked the evangelical world back in March. Folks far wiser and more in tune with the Holy Spirit than I have weighed and continue to weigh in. I have not felt that any profound words of wisdom have been ignored, nor have I felt the inspiration to offer anything fresh to the conversation. That still being the case, I offer here one thought and one prayer, neither one original, in the hope that the insights of one and the heart’s cry of the other will minister to all who read them.
The thought comes from Andy Crouch, itinerant speaker and author of a slew of books, including Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. My wife and I have of late found Crouch’s words to be prophetic for our times. I commend his entire Q talk (Andy Crouch on power) to you, but the phrase that stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it was this: “[Power], if left unchecked by worship, [will] destroy me, my marriage, and anything I have to give to the world.”
No one goes into Christian service of any kind assuming the allure of whatever power eventually accompanies the position will inevitably bring down the ministry . . . but to assume said allure won’t, at least, prove problematic and need to be brought into check at regular points in the process denies the reality of human nature. May all of us in positions of leadership in the Church Universal align ourselves with wise counselors who can–graciously but forcefully–keep us rooted and, especially, humble. And may we pursue authentic worship with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength . . . for all kinds of holy and righteous reasons, but, for the purposes of this topic, because doing so is our best defense against our abuse of power.
(In case you don’t have time to watch the clip–it’s only 18 minutes–here are a few other Tweetable quotes:
- “Who is flourishing because you have power?”
- “Every idol [representing the end result of the deepest corruption of power] . . . makes two promises to us . . . 1) “You shall not surely die” . . . [and] 2) “You will be like God.”
- “Poverty is simply the result of someone playing God in the life of someone else.”
- “Do we believe that we can be agents of flourishing without having to make or become idols? That is the question of power.”)
The prayer comes from a collection of Puritan prayers entitled The Valley of Vision that I have used in my devotional efforts the past couple of years. I pray this prayer, “The Cry of a Convicted Sinner,” on behalf of those in leadership at Willow Creek who have caused their brothers and sisters grief and pain, but even more so I pray this for myself (for though my sins might not make front-page news, they are as vile as anyone’s), and I would encourage you to do the same (for though your sins might not shake to the core an institution that has had 40 years of global impact, they are as reprehensible as anybody’s).
Thou righteous and holy Sovereign, in whose hand is my life and whose are all my ways, keep me from fluttering about religion; fix me firm in it, for I am irresolute; my decisions are smoke and vapour, and I do not glorify thee, or behave according to thy will; cut me not off before my thoughts grow to responses, and the budding of my soul into full flower, for thou art forebearing and good, patient and kind.
Save me from myself, from the artifices and deceits of sin, from the treachery of my perverse nature, from denying thy charge against my offences, from a life of continual rebellion against thee, from wrong principles, views, and ends; for I know that all my thoughts, affections, desires and pursuits are alienated from thee. I have acted as if I hated thee, although thou art love itself; have contrived to tempt thee to the uttermost, to wear out thy patience; have lived evilly in word and action.
Had I been a prince I would long ago have crushed such a rebel; had I been a father I would long since have rejected my child. O, thou Father of my spirit, thou King of my life, cast me not into destruction, drive me not from thy presence, but wound my heart that it may be healed; break it that thine own hand may make it whole.
The Lord be with you!