One of my projects this year is to co-lead an Urban Ministry Tour for Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA). Our purpose and goal is to listen to urban church leaders and make recommendations that will help to shape the future of urban Mennonite Church. As we go around to various locations we are asking a common set of questions:
· Who are you? · How are you? · What are the things that you do well? · How can Mennonite Church USA be helpful? · What is of spiritual importance to you in your community? · What is important to know about ministry in the urban context?
These questions have sparked some vigorous discussions.
Last week in Minneapolis, in response to the question,”How can MCUSA be helpful?” Mark Van Steenwyk, a local church leader responded with his own question. “Is it possible for Mennonite Church USA to engage the space without trying to control the space?”
This question has been gnawing at me ever since. The need to control seems to be a universal desire.
I know that this craving impacts every area of my life. As a parent, I want to control my boys; who their friends are, what movies the watch, where they go to school and what they eat. As the National Director of DOOR, I want control over our image, the finances and the program.
Some control seems appropriate. Too often my (our) need to control becomes destructive and manipulative. I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:7, “But (Jesus) emptied himself…”
If there ever was a person who had the right to control, it was Jesus. But Jesus, the son of God, emptied himself. Or to think of it another way, Jesus chose to engage humanity without trying to control humanity.
Why is it that we so willingly accept the freedom given to us while still hankering to control?
The temptation to control is something which must be resisted at every level, from the individual to the institution.