In recent blogs I’ve read, and in some e-mails I’ve received, I’m hearing a theme, a subtle one but one that appears to have plenty of punch and power with plenty. It is this: “this is an issue for the practitioners.” Perhaps it is related to what I have been calling the performance of the gospel vs. simple articulation of the gospel.
Here’s a question for us to ponder: Who exactly is the practitioner?
Evidently, some want to exclude the professional theologian (among whom I would count myself) because they are professionals or theoreticians. I hear this at times from the pastors. Why I think this is unfair will be evident in what follows.
But, should we include pastors among the practitioners? Some are so lay-emphatic in theology that they would exclude them, too. Why I think this is unfair will also be clear in what follows.
Who then is the real practitioner? Well, this depends on what we mean by “practice.” I think it ought to refer to anyone and everyone who is following Jesus, whether that person is a non-professional theologian or a non-pastor.
Is not the central vocation of each theologian or pastor or anyone else who wants to be called Christian to be a “follower of Jesus”? Is not practice the ground-level vocation of each of us?
The real practitioner is not someone who does not do theology or who does not do pastoral work, but the one who day in and day out seeks to follow Jesus in this world of ours, who seeks to love God and others for the good of the world, who works with might and main for the sake of the kingdom, and who finds herself or himself telling her or his own story in the story of the gospel about Jesus Christ. That person may seek to articulate some theology out of that practice or may seek to do pastoral work out of that practice. The door of entry for the practitioner is anyone who is following Jesus, and it does not exclude anyone who seeks to enter that door on the basis of that person’s vocation.
So, whether theologian or pastor or neither, the practitioner calls each of us to a model of Christian behavior that we find in the simple call to follow Jesus wherever he might lead us today and tomorrow.
Practitioners ought to describe each of us.