Make Trouble, My Friends

From Michelle van Loon, on these words of Pope Francis:

I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures, because these need to get out…Don’t forget: make trouble….

Michelle’s commentary (or should I say midrash?):

The words of Pope Francis remind me that it is indeed kingdom work to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. This work is an equal-opportunity employer, as it has a role in the lives of those who are not yet in relationship with God as well as in reforming (always reforming!) we who comprise the Body of Christ.

What might the lifestyle and character of a healthy spiritual trouble-maker look like?

  • Trouble-makers own their own spiritual growth, and do not rely on their church to be the primary place of spiritual formation in their lives.
  • Trouble-makers do not wait to be asked by a pastor to use their spiritual gifts for the benefit of others in the Church. They aren’t especially concerned that the graces God gave them to give others may or may not fit on that congregational org chart on a wall in a church leader’s office. They do their level best to respect their leaders’ structures and authority, but they refuse to stop thinking for themselves or silencing the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  • Trouble-makers are willing to ask and answer hard questions.
  • Trouble-makers may not always have perfect manners, but are motivated by love. Love keeps trouble-makers from becoming full-on jerks.
  • Trouble-makers recognize that Jesus is not calling them to form self-protective, cozy cliques.
  • Trouble-makers worship God, recognizing that adoration is the ultimate act of disruption.
  • Trouble-makers ask the Holy Spirit to test their motives. They understand if they have a sense of entitlement or a rush toward self-justification about an issue, they’ve probably veered off course somewhere.
  • Trouble-makers understand that transformation – their own and the Bride to whom they belong – always requires more courage than they currently possess. Dependence on God fuels their willingness to disrupt the stale status quo.
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Pat68

    And troublemakers should know that their efforts will not always be greeted happily, particularly not by those concerned with maintaining the status quo. But persevere.

  • Jason Dykstra

    Scot, this may be my favorite blog post ever. Literally. This is exactly what I (imperfectly) strive for and have written Healing Hereafter for, but the power of it is that it describes those laypeople in the church who will change the world in Christ while still honoring and working alongside (albeit pushing) church leadership! I love this and can’t wait to share it; thank-you for having the courage to post it!
    Jason @ http://www.jasondykstrawrites.com

  • Joline Atkins

    You just spoke DIRECTLY to me.

  • Ann F-R

    I was listening to Stanley Hauerwas speaking about “the peaceable community”, this evening. He noted exactly what I’ve experienced in Christian conciliation, that those of us concerned with real peace “will not let the Lie remain the Lie”. That refusal to allow the Lie to stand unchallenged looks like conflict to most people who are concerned with “order” or the status quo. http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/peaceable-community

    I appreciate Michelle van Loon’s and Hauerwas’ words, especially, today. Thank you for sharing her wisdom, Scot!

  • mark

    Some thoughts on Frankie’s act from Theodore Dalrymple:

    Compassionate fellow-feeling, however, can soon become self-indulgent and lead to spiritual pride. It imparts an inner glow, like a shot of whiskey on a cold day, but like whiskey it can prevent the clear-headedness which we need at least as much as we need warmth of heart. Pascal said that the beginning of morality was to think well; generosity of spirit is not enough.

    By elevating feeling over thought, by making compassion the measure of all things, the Pope was able to evade the complexities of the situation, in effect indulging in one of the characteristic vices of our time, moral exhibitionism, which is the espousal of generous sentiment without the pain of having to think of the costs to other people of the implied (but unstated) morally-appropriate policy.

    Warmth of feeling cannot be the sole guide to our responses to the dilemmas that the world constantly puts in our path.

    The nature of human existence inevitably creates conflict between desiderata.

    That is one of the reasons why the kingdom of the Pope’s master could not possibly be of this world. And the absence of the tragic sense in the Pope’s remarks allowed him to wallow in a pleasing warm bath of sentiment without distraction by complex and unpleasant realities. Perhaps this will earn him applause in the short run; but in the long run he does not serve his flock by such over-simplifications.

    These words apply to so much of what Frankie has said so far.

  • RJS4DQ

    mark,

    Why do you use the name “Frankie” and the phrase “Frankie’s act” in this comment?

  • mark

    “Frankie” is a diminutive for “Francis.” Normally I abbreviate pope’s names by letter and number: JP2, B16, but F or F1 doesn’t work well, to me. Part of “Frankie’s act” — which to me means: “Frankie’s personal style”–is an informality and personal touch. The diminutive “Frankie” seems in keeping with that, as well as being in keeping with the personal style (“act”) of his namesake, Francis of Assisi. “Act” also communicates that I believe that his public persona on the world stage is one that he has cultivated for a definite, didactic purpose. As a loyal Catholic myself, no disrespect is intended toward his office. In fact, I strongly approve of these personal style elements, while obviously disapproving of some of what he communicates when personal style veers into substance. Which I think is Dalrymple’s point.

  • mark

    On reflection, I believe your question was probably motivated by a concern that my own “act” in the comment could appear to be mere vulgar abuse of Francis, which would set a tone for the comments on this blog that would be best avoided. I’ll try to avoid that perception in future.

  • Barb

    I’m glad to see I’m not alone–I’ve been quietly (and not so much) making trouble for over 60 years now :)

  • RJS4DQ

    Thanks mark,

    I knew you were a loyal Catholic, so I thought you probably didn’t mean it exactly the way it read to me.

  • Mike James

    This is the kind of trouble maker that I want to be.

  • Dianne P

    Wow. At first glance, I just loved this. Then I reflected on some of the “trouble makers” that I’ve encountered in various churches, some of whom I’ve loved, and some of whom I’ve steered clear of. I loved those who pushed the boundaries and thought outside the box. Maybe even lived outside the box.

    But to be honest, some really were trouble makers. They were full of their own agenda, their own self importance, the righteousness of their position – all cloaked in the righteousness of God. To be blunt, in their desire to advance their thoughts, they mowed down all those in their path. Yikes. Run for the hills was my response.

    I guess that I’m a bit uncomfortable with the comment that they might not have the best manners… sometimes the passion that one feels can too easily be used as an excuse to run over others. Bad manners justified by the call to do God’s work, at least as one sees it.

    How do we discern? Yes, of course, the Holy Spirit. But I find that an answer that is too easy and too layered… all at the same time. So I remain intrigued… and confused.


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