Monday, March 04, 2013
The Spirtual and The Practical
I've been in plenty of church meetings that seem to pit the "spiritual" people against the "practical." The "spiritual" people want to raise the mission budget in the next year; the "practical" people wonder how we're going to pay for it. The "spiritual" people want to let the Spirit be free in worship services; the "practical" people wonder when the services will be over so the Sunday School teachers can plan adequately. Sometimes, the "spiritual" folk get exasperated. They think that they can play their "spiritual" trump card, which means that the "practical" folk should back down. Is this right?
In fact, Scripture often balances the "spiritual" and the "practical." It might be better to say that Scripture doesn't recognize such a distinction. The God who created the heavens and the earth to be orderly seems to understand that the "spiritual" always takes shape in the "practical."
So, if you happen to be someone with "practical" talents, if you're an engineer or a planner, if you're an accountant or an attorney, don't feel as if you have to always play second fiddle to the visionaries and mystics. All of us have gifts to contribute to the body of Christ, and God has formed the body so that all of us matter. Deep spirituality is not incompatible with realistic practicality. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Everything should be done [that is, all spiritual gifts should be exercised] with dignity and in proper order" (1 Cor. 14:40).Decades ago I was on the ruling board of a church where the "spiritual people" won - they did a "faith" budget that far exceeded the realities of the situation. I ended up resigning the board. About 10 months into the year of that budget the board had to stand in front of the congregation and say they were wrong. The church is still dealing with debt incurred becasue of that budget and decisions made in its wake.
God works miracles, but not on demand and not all that often. God's revelation comes in many forms and those forms often include income projections based on available data. When you hear God's voice calling you you best check it with the other means by which God communicates with us.
When I went to be on Young Life staff all those years ago a friend said to me, "John don't you think a 4.0 GPA as a Chemistry major says maybe you are better suited to another line of work." What I thought was God's voice did not jive with the realities about me and was really my own desires, not God's.
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