Donald Miller, a bestselling author who recently stirred a debate after saying he doesn't attend church regularly, has written another follow-up post on his blog, this time musing over a question: what would a church look like if the Holy Spirit were its pastor?
Miller, who focuses on Christian spirituality as "an explanation for beauty, meaning, and the human struggle," writes that he attended a church last Sunday, and "enjoyed it very much."
However, as a result of his admission that he doesn't go to church often, he felt a "deceptive polarized pull of 'Wait, are you supposed to be here? Aren't you either in or out?'"
"I consoled myself by reminding myself I'd never left 'the church' just simply didn't attend many services," writes the 42-year-old author of New York Times Bestseller Blue Like Jazz.
Two weeks ago, Miller sought to clarify his Feb. 3 blog post about his church attendance. "Many people thought the blog was saying people shouldn't go to church or that I had something against church. None of that is true," he wrote.
Miller had written: "It's just that I don't experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of sermons I actually remember. So to be brutally honest, I don't learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don't connect with him by singing songs to him. So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through."
Tim Suttle, a pastor, writer and musician who blogs on Patheos.com, responded by writing, "The hard work of slogging to church every single Sunday morning so that we can worship with people who are different from us, is at least in part, necessary so that we don't fall into the egocentric patterns of our society."
In his latest blog post, Miller continues that after the Sunday service, he had dinner with a pastor friend, and discussed with him the meaning and significance of church. A line of thought he really liked was a question, "If the Holy Spirit were pastor of a church, what would that church look like?"
"The vision I got was of a pastor who sees his or herself as a pastor to pastors… a pastor who spends Sunday equipping the congregation to be pastors themselves, that is to baptize people through the week, perhaps in their home swimming pools, to guide people through communion, perhaps around their own dinner tables, to teach the Bible to their friends and neighbors, to sing together in their homes, to make meals and share them with the sick and so forth," explains Miller, who serves on President Barack Obama's Task Force on Fatherhood and Healthy Families.
On Sunday, such pastors could gather to encourage each other and share stories about their own "churches" in the world, he adds. "I even imagined buying a bunch of little sheriff badges so a pastor could 'deputize' their congregations as priests in God's kingdom, answering to the Holy Spirit and doing the work of Jesus directly."
Miller goes on to say that some of the most significant spiritual moments of his life have been when he's stepped into the authority God has given him as a priest in His kingdom.
The author says he has done communion on a loading dock using hot chocolate and cookies, and baptized friends in a waterfall. But those experiences aren't too many, he adds. "The thing about those moments, though, is they remind me Jesus is sharing agency with us here on earth."
Calvin, who believed it was only the Apostles who were supposed to baptize, would disagree with him, Miller says.
The author then asks, "What if we really were called to that kind of adventure and at church we were being equipped to do pastoral work, to have authority and agency?"
The life would get messy, he answers.
"To let the church know they have much more agency than they ever realized would open a can of worms and there would be theological arguments left and right." But there was "an awful lot of organized chaos" in the book of Acts, too, Miller argues. "I wonder if we've not lost the stomach for that kind of adventure?"