orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

April 6, 2013

A living faith for the un-churched

Dr. Andy Pate Jr.
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — It is an honor for me to have been given the opportunity to write a weekly column for The Orange Leader.  I invite comments and will do my best to answer each one personally.  E-mail me: andrewpatejr@aol.com

They are only small, simmering fires at the moment.  But chances are good they will grow and spread a lot over the next decade.

Fear not.  We’re not talking about fires like those that have in recent years scorched and ravaged our crops, our forests, thousands of homes and virtually everything in their merciless paths.  

No, we’re talking about holy fires, fires of the Spirit that inspire and heal individuals, communities and, yes, even nations.

Churches are breaking out of their cloisters, reaching out, extending themselves beyond the barriers that have for years sealed them off from ministry to all of God’s people.

Mostly these flashes of hope and renewal have yet to make themselves visible to the general public.  Many dying parishes still cling to their old ways, as though the clinging itself will save them.

But the fires of the Spirit are very much present, all about us really.

Pope Frances the First’s election stands out.  For already, in less than a month, he has made crystal clear his intention to move swiftly beyond the barriers that have separated his church from the struggling, unchurched masses –  to  the poor, the pagan and the millions who have come to believe Christian institutions do not really care about them.

In non-Catholic churches the Spirit fires are yet so small they are easy to miss.  One has to look hard for them, in such events as:  Mission trips, Sharefests, community sings, food pantries, hospice chaplaincies and in the day-to-day ministries of pastors and church members who are increasingly making themselves available to persons who’ve never darkened the doors of their churches.

The “Church” as we have known it is going with the wind.  A New Church is being born.  

That’s the way God operates, you see.  Whenever the Church has become insular, secretive and arrogant, God has empowered the Holy Spirit to intervene and transform the institution and its ministries.  It’s happening now.

This I believe.