Rebuild My Church: Introduction

With this post, I am beginning a new occasional series here on Oboedire. On the one hand, I am doing it so that the existing “Along the Way” series can remain the means for exploring the spiritual life in its diversity. I do not want “Along the Way” to be overtaken by any single topic. It will continue as a broad-view series.

On the other hand, I am commencing this new series to provide the category for a focused and continuing look at ecclesial renewal. I am doing this in the context of my conviction that we are in a time of new Awakening, a time that includes God’s call for the re-formation of the Church. I recently wrote about the new Awakening here on Oboedire. [1] I want to make the general idea specific in the context of the Church. As the new Awakening emerges, the Church is called to be part of the renewal. Indeed, as Peter noted, judgment (restoration) begins in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). The Church is renewed in the midst of every new Awakening.

I take my cue for this series from God’s call to St. Francis, which began with these words, “Go and rebuild my church which, as you can see, is falling down.” Responding to this divine invitation, Francis moved from being a wanderer in and around Assisi to being a reformer in the Body of Christ. If the Church is to be an instrument of renewal in the new Awakening, it must be rebuilt. This series will explore theological and practical dimensions of the Spirit-inspired reconstruction process.

Today, I point to the part of God’s call to Francis that linked his new mission to current reality. God launched the Franciscan renewal movement using Francis’ own assessment of the Church, saying to him, “which, as you can see, is falling down.” I will not dwell on this except to say that we have decades of evidence to recognize the decline of the institutional church. But as with Francis, the aim of this new series on Oboedire will be “to rebuild,” not to remain focused on what has fallen down.

I am writing from a twofold vision: that the general Church needs rebuilding…and…that the institutional part of it to which I belong (the United Methodist Church) needs rebuilding too. This means the series is for all who recognize the need for ecclesial renewal, with a specific application to the future of the UMC.

I note also in God’s call to Francis that the vision for renewal began with a bricks-and-mortar sense focused on the church of San Damiano. Only as he was faithful to a specific task did he come to recognize the larger mission God was calling him into. I hope the same will happen with this series. By focusing on the UMC—the one part of the Body of Christ that I know best, I hope to connect with the larger mission of renewal to which God is calling us.

In this introduction, I end noting that God made it clear to Francis it was God’s church he was rebuilding, not his. Part of the rebuilding God is calling us to engage in today is a purging of arrogance that causes us to believe it’s our church—a disposition which fosters egotism and ethnocentrism. God made it clear: it’s “my church” and that remembrance cleans the lens through which see the renewal. By remembering it was God’s church he was rebuilding, Francis saw himself as only “an instrument of God’s peace,” modeling the humility we must have as we respond to God’s call to rebuild the Church today.

If you want to be an instrument of God’s peace in this mission, I hope you will find this “Rebuild My Church” series to be helpful. If you know others who would be interested in a series like this, please tell them about it.

[1] The series “New Awakening” ran from October 13, 2021 to January 13, 2022. Prior to this, I wrote a book entitled ‘Fresh Wind Blowing’ that explored the same idea in more detail.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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