It goes without saying that we like to be in control – we as individuals want to be in control – and we as the church want to be in control. But being faithful to Christ will often mean relinquishing control. After all, the Spirit blows where it will, and the Lord we serve bears the marks of the nails in his palms today. The cross doesn’t correlate well with control.
If we are engaged meaningfully with the wider community, and are to enter into meaningful partnerships with the wider community, we do so because we trust that the Spirit is at work there, and that the reign of Christ may come to expression there.
But such partnership will mean not being able to control the other’s perceptions of the partnership, their actions in the partnership, or the language they use to describe the partnership. That is always the case in meaningful relationships where we remain in some sense vulnerable – we engage honestly and faithfully with others where we perceive mutuality and respect, without presuming to tell the other who they are or how they must act/perceive/speak. In fact, there may be times we don’t like what is said or done by partners. (Discernment, of course, also means learning when a partnership can’t be a partnership anymore.)
There are those within the church who approach such engagement with the wider community under essentially unitarian assumptions – “God” is at work (whoever “God” is) in the culture and in the church, and we have nothing decisive to hold on to or offer in this context. We are all just stumbling in the dark trying to make the world a more beautiful place. And “God” is there helping, working.
The approach of the unitarian person and the trinitarian person may appear similar – and their descriptions of what they are doing may at times appear similar. Yet there is a world of difference between them.
The person who seeks to be faithful to the missional life of Father, Son, and Spirit engages with the community in order to participate in the coming kingdom of the risen Jesus – working and praying for manifestations of his peace and righteousness and justice, but trusting that we don’t need to manipulate or control or move people into an acknowledgment of Christ or his kingdom.
Be open. Be honest. Work collegially. Relinquish control. Be faith-full. Jesus Christ is Lord. The Spirit is moving.