Your Church has an Angel

It’s time to begin thinking in new ways about church.

Clergy often focus on the numbers and problems: the size of the budget, the number of people who pledge, average Sunday attendance, and a long list of other numbers.  Beyond that, all too often the conversation among clergy turns to questions about the problems to be solved and the hurdles to be cleared.

Lay people, on the other hand, often focus on the question, “What does this church have to offer?”  “How is the preaching, the music, and the youth program?”  “What is the potential for friendships?”  “Can I connect with the clergy?”

Both perspectives are understandable — and, on one level, they are unavoidable perhaps.

But it’s time to change the way that we think about church.

The game-changer for me has been reading the Book of Revelation.  The seven letters to the seven churches are actually prophetic announcements, citing the strengths and weaknesses of seven churches that dominated Asia Minor near the end of the first century.  They are also a call to faithfulness in a complex world where each church struggled with the realities of life in the Roman Empire and the tensions posed by the struggle to distinguish been reasonable accommodations to the nature of life and the betrayal of their faith.

Each church is represented by an angel and seated in the heavenly counsel where the resurrected and glorified Christ sits on the throne, they (along with the churches they represent hear the words of praise or judgment pronounced on the way in which they live.

Our churches each have an angel — a spirit — an inner character — just as surely as do individuals.  The task of the spiritual life is to open that spirit to the work of God — growing in intimacy and identification with God.

Getting lost in numbers, programs and problems distracts us from that task.

It’s time to look at church differently.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.