Theology is not merely shaped by academic environs. The most precise articulations often betray the complexity of practical applications. Thinking through my own personal journey as pastor of a local church I find the incessant battle to both care with those we fellowship and to love the world in the way of Jesus to be one that eventually leads some to choose one over the other. We either leave the church feeling the “institution” just does not get it or, we bunker down fearing even the slightest encroachment of the culture in which we live – often blind to the very accommodations we have been making for years.
When we settle on our preferred sensibilities we often create a cultural chasm so deep and so wide as to exclude the possibilities to love our neighbors, as often they do not share the same sensibilities. On the other hand when we summarily dismiss the church we seem to have adopted an idealism that eventually even omits us from any close approximation of what it means to be the people of God and give in to an odd fatalism.
In his article, The Edge of the Inside, Father Rohr suggests in the image of Jesus as the door of the sheepfold we often miss the “in and out and find pasture.” Our interest is primarily focused on “in.” The need to follow Jesus both in and out creates a better picture of how the transforming work of Jesus prepares us for following Jesus into the world. Rather than view the world adversarially, the picture Father Rohr paints connects the commission to the disciples to leave representations of security, “baggage,” as they were sent to face the hospitality and hostility of those in “other worlds.”
For the local pastor to find the center of his given fellowship’s preferred location leaves him susceptible to missing the needed “other” perspective. To do so may mean missing the occasion to bring hope to the world or care to the soul. It really is a both/and rather than an either/or. Living in that space is difficult. It is far easier to settle in one location and become an expert there. It is at this place I found the following paragraph insightful,
To live on the edge of the inside is different than being an insider, “a company man,” or a dues paying member. Yes, you have learned the rules and you understand and honor the system as far as it goes, but you do not need to protect it, defend it, promote it. It has served its initial and helpful function. You have learned the rules well enough to know how to “break the rules” without really breaking them at all – “not to abolish the law but to complete it” as Jesus right puts it (Matthew 5:17). A doorkeeper must love both the inside and the outside of his or her group, and know how to move between these two loves.
More in Pt 3