Demonstrating Grace

I am listening to a podcast from Christianity Today called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. This blog isn’t about promoting the podcast but sharing a quote from it that has rattled around in my brain for a couple of days.

Paul David Tripp  is an author, counsellor, and for a short period of time, an adviser to the leaders of Mars Hill before it blew up. I haven’t read any of his stuff, so again I’m not necessarily promoting his work either, but I did like the quote. In one of the podcasts he said, “Any local church, whether it is 50 or 50,000, whose leadership culture is not shaped by the same grace it says it believes is unbiblical and heading for trouble.” 

Here is how I unpacked that:

Any local church. The church is not the pastor, the board, or the building. The church is you and me. We are the local church.

Whose leadership culture. Leadership culture for sure, but also disciple making, leadership development and lived out church culture which again is all of us.

Is not shaped by. Meaning when this is not a part of the formation of people, not on display, or lived out and visible to others.    

McAlister paraphrase:

Any local church whose culture, ethos, and day to day serving and loving does not display, practice, and teach grace as part of their leadership and discipleship formation is headed for trouble.

This should slow us down and take a moment to reflect on how we have thought about and talked to each other over this past year and a half. Not how they talked to us or disagreed with us, but what we said and did. Did my remarks, actions, and attitudes demonstrate the grace I say I believe in?

There are no three steps here, just a call to prayerful reflection for all of us because we need to get this right moving forward. We need to make sure as we regroup that we are always demonstrating the grace we say we believe in with and for everyone. In how we act, talk, pray, plan, teach, react, respond, love, serve, and live. This is not for those people over there who should be treating me better. This is for you and me. 

If the church has any hope of doing well post pandemic, this has to be at the very core of who we are and what we do. Grace must be lived out in all we do, and that hasn’t always been the case over the last year and a half or even further back if we want to be honest when it came to folks who didn’t agree with us or who were “the other.”

We can’t let that continue. We can’t tolerate it or excuse it in ourselves and others. We can’t hide behind political ideologies or opinions about masks and vaccines. We need to put the grace we say we believe into practice everywhere, all the time with everyone.

So again, this is a call to prayerful reflection. Asking God to continue to give us more of Himself so we can do this. Asking Him to help us in our thoughts, words, and actions. All of that is good and necessary, but maybe first ask Him to examine us to see if we need to do any grace repair work with anyone and then do that in obedience.  

If we don’t get this right we are in trouble. Something to pray about.

Marc McAlister
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health
Free Methodist Church in Canada