Imperfect Church, part 5

In addition to being Simple, looking Upward and Outward, Sjogren says the church that wishes to become “Perfectly Imperfect” should be Anointed. In my United Methodist tradition I’ve only heard that word used to describe Jesus as the Messiah – the “Anointed One.” In Sjogren’s (semi-charismatic?) understanding, it is a spiritual word meaning something like “Reputation.” He says, “A postive perception in your community is more powerful than words, programs, slogans, and all the great sermons in the world.” In it’s biblical context it would seem to be something that is solely dependent on the work of God. Sjogren, however, describes it as having both a “vertical” and a “horizontal” dimension. The former is what God does, the latter what we do. For the part we do, he mentions several things the church can do to build anointing. Here are some of them (read the book for his development of each).

  • Be committed to small things
  • Be real
  • Do what people consider to be practical actions
  • Be willing to take risks
  • Be committed to producing outward-focused disciples
  • Expect surprises from God
  • Be willing to be near the least, the lost and lonely
  • Be willing to act in simple ways to change lives

In my own church I often remind my people that we are in the “people business.” We have an old sanctuary (100 years old) and an old church plant – both cause enough debt & expense that we have to fight the temptation to think we’re in the money business. Sjogren’s sound mostly like good ways to love people practically, though since he is moving beyond Outward to Anointed, he appears to be focusing on a desired effect of our acts of love.

Sjogren’s distinction between vertical and horizontal anointing brings to mind the two main theories of revival. The school respresented by J. Edwin Orr sees revival as something God does. The church can prepare for revival and respond when it comes, but revival itself is a sovereign act of God. Charles Finney, on the other hand, saw revival as always a possibility for the church that was willing to use the right means to achieve it. According to Finney, God is always willing to send revival, if only we will fufill his requirements. With this chapter primarily focusing on “horizontal anointing” – what we do – it appears the Sjogren would side with Finney on this issue.

One final comment: I Peter talks about our reputation and its role in drawing people to Jesus. While Peter speaks of doing good, even more he talks about bearing up under suffering. He urges his audience to follow the example of Jesus (as Jesus fulfilled the image of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53). Thus according to the NT one of the key things we do in our relation to the world is willingly submit to the sufferings inflicted on us.

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