Edging God Out
I was thinking...
Years ago, I attended a continuing education event that was instrumental toward my growth as a minister and as a person. The book “When God Builds a Church” by Bob Russell was included in the curriculum. While the theology of the event and of the book is far from Wesleyan, there were some real gems that cross all theological lines. For example, the section on ‘Uncontrolled Ego’ reaches far beyond any theological boundary.
“It’s been said EGO stands for ‘Edging God Out.’ The number one cause for division in churches today is pride. People become proud of their influence and status, so much so that when you threaten their little seat of power, they will come out fighting. They will pretend they have the church’s best interests at heart, but the real issue is a matter of ‘who’s in charge’…A Preacher in a rural area who had a very successful ministry was asked why so many country churches were stagnant. He said that in many small churches, there are one or two families that for generations have controlled the church. Their influence in the church becomes a matter of pride and power for them. They resist any new leader or new idea because it threatens their little empire.” (Pp.158,159)
Continuing in this season of Lent, I want to be transparently honest with my ego. Is there any place where I might be in danger of ‘Edging God Out’? Would I know it if God were in fact being squeezed out of my mind, heart, and life? We as Wesleyan’s believe in ‘backsliding.’ Backsliding, also known as falling away or described as “committing apostasy,” is a term used to describe a process by which an individual who has converted to Christianity reverts to pre-conversion habits and/or lapses or falls into sin, when a person turns from God to pursue their own desire. (Wikipedia)
Have you ever backslid? Ok, let’s be honest, we all have! God’s grace is amazing in that there are always open arms welcoming us to slide into home (I’m so glad baseball is back!). One role of the season of Lent is to look honestly at our ego, that may be out of kilter. If our ego out of kilter is discovered, then turning that around (repentance) to its proper balance with honest and humble confession is critical. Confession really is good for the soul - and for the ego!
Listen, we are all ‘human beings’ but often our ‘human doing’ gets in the way of being the human God created us and desires us to be. I’m going to check my ego and I invite you to check yours. I desire to please God, not edge God out of my life. When I’m doing some edging, I want to know it, confess it, and turn from it. I know you do, too.
So, we continue our Lenten journey. We must go through Lent to truly experience Resurrection. Pray for me as I journey. I am praying for you. Pray for God’s church. None of us are perfect and, therefore, neither is the church, but it is the bride of Christ, as described in Ephesians 5. I can handle most criticism but you start criticizing my bride and… well, I might backslide into a behavior that will need confessing.
Let’s love ourselves enough to check our egos, let’s love others as Christ loved the church, and let’s love the church as if we know it belongs to God.
The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop