I do not follow Richard Rohr’s daily meditations online, but many people in the community in which I serve, do read Rohr’s reflections every day. I am grateful that often some of these faithful readers forward to me reflections they feel might be particularly pertinent.

Today I received words from Rohr that seem relevant and important for the church as we set our sights on the year ahead.

Here are Rohr’s observations followed by a brief observation at the end:

The Work of Healing by Richard Rohr
Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Up to now, top-down religion has pretty much spoiled the show. We need trained experts, scholars, leaders, and teachers, but the truths of Christianity must be made much more accessible, available, localized, and pastoral. Most people do not need to have encyclopedic knowledge of theology or Scripture. To begin with, why not flatten out the huge and unbiblical distinction between clergy and laity? [1]

While Christian churches do much good, we have one huge pastoral problem that is making Christianity largely ineffective—and largely decorative. Solid orthodox theology is sorely needed (and yes, I am obsessed with it), yet we clearly need good and compassionate pastoral and healing practices ten times more!

It seems to me that we must begin to validate Paul’s original teaching on “many gifts and many ministries” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Together, these diverse gifts “make a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4:12-13, Jerusalem Bible). Individual communities may do this well, but on the whole we need Christian people who are trained in, validated for, and encouraged to make home and hospital visits; do hospice work and jail ministry; support immigrants and refugees; help with soup kitchens or food pantries; counsel couples before, during, and after marriage; share child development resources with families; offer ministries of emotional, sexual, and relational healing; help with financial counseling; build low-cost housing; take care of the elderly; run thrift centers—all of which put Christian people in immediate touch with other people and for which no ordination is needed. Ordination would probably even get in the way. Remember, healing was most of the work Jesus did. This fact is almost too obvious.

My vision of any future church is much flatter and much more inclusive. Either we see Christ in everyone, or we hardly see Christ in anyone. Frankly, my hope for Christianity is that it becomes less “churchy,” less patriarchal, and more concerned with living its mission statement than with endlessly reciting our heavenly vision and philosophy statement—the Nicene Creed—every Sunday. There seem to be very few actionable items in most Christians’ lives beyond attending worship services, which largely creates a closed and self-validating system. 

Simply put, any notion of a future church must be a fully practical church that is concerned about getting the job of love done—and done better and better. Centuries emphasizing art and architecture, music, liturgy, and prescribed roles have their place, but their overemphasis has made us a very top-heavy and decorative church that is constantly concerned with its own in-house salvation.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

[1] See Joe Holland, Roman Catholic Clericalism: Three Historical Stages in the Legislation of a Non-Evangelical, Now Dysfunctional, and Sometimes Pathological Institution (Pacem in Terris Press: 2018).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Powering Down: The Future of Institutions,” “The Future of Christianity,” Oneing, vol. 7, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2019), 46-47.


I agree with so much of what Rohr says here. But I do have one quibble where a tone of judgementalism that I sometimes observe in Rohr, creeps in. He writes:

There seem to be very few actionable items in most Christians’ lives beyond attending worship services, which largely creates a closed and self-validating system.

This is NOT my experience. Everywhere I look in the community I serve, I see people stepping up to the plate. I see deep compassion, kindness, caring, and giving. I see people who serve the well-being of the human community and creation as a whole in so many ways. I worship every Sunday with people who take their faith seriously and seek to embody it deeply in their daily lives.

I believe the church’s job is to fan these flames of the Spirit. We will accomplish this primary task, not by judging or browbeating people, but by facilitating a deep encounter with the living God in worship. Everything flows from this dynamic experience of heart-opening that is the purpose of worship.

The quirky and enchanting Swedish film “As It Is In Heaven” articulates powerfully a vision of “flat church”.  Near the beginning of the movie, the leade character Daniel Daréus articulates the role of church in this “flat” vision when he says, “I always wanted my music to open hearts.” (Tragically, the pastor in the film does not share the Daréus vision.)

Open hearts will produce service, respect, kindness, compassion, and truth-telling because these are the qualities of our true nature as beings created in the image and likeness of the God who “is love”.