Justin Lewis-Anthony fashions a thought-provoking item out of a quote from Stanley Hauerwas:
As Stanley Hauerwas says, when you meet a church in paroxysms about “the family”, you have met a church which no longer believes in God. What about the Church agonising about its ministry to the individual?
Not long ago there was a report in the newspapers that church agencies in Berlin had established a mobile unit, an automobile equipped with short-wave radio, in which a priest, a physician and a psychologist could be summoned immediately at any hour of the day or night. That sounds very up to date: the church, in a sense, at the front, modern technology in service of the reign of God. But in reality this ecclesiastical mobile unit is a highly questionable symbol of what the church has largely become in our society: a church which takes care of the individual, an institution which offers its wares to a group of individuals.1
Is our concern for the individual a sign of our idolatry, the first-falling away from the path of discipleship? “Forgive me, Lord, I would come to the banquet, but first I have to have some quality ‘me-time’”?
While I share Justin and Hauerwas' sense that the institutional church often neglects the social and political dimensions of the Gospel, I wonder whether the church only recognizes the work of its members when those works are performed in the name of the church. For the sake of starting a conversation, let me ask what's wrong with ministering to people who are worn out from trying to build up the Body of Christ all week and come to church on Sunday for a little sustenance?
I once belonged to a parish in which school teachers and social workers and community organizers gathered every Sunday to hear their priest-in-charge express his disappointment that the congregation hadn't settled on a mission yet. I am not suggesting that either Justin--whom I know and respect--or Hauerwas believe that the defintion of mission is "tasks performed by a congregation at the direction of a priest after extensive evening meetings." But that idea is out there.