Wulf's comment highlights an important point in the Baptist understanding of church and that's that belonging has to have a measure of 'demonstrable consent' on the part of each person who wants to belong. So this means, he suggests, that not everyone affected by the ministry of a church is a stakeholder.
I'd certainly agree with that - though I'm interested to know where stakeholder-dom starts in relation to a church.
But I do wonder whether the church meeting as currently set up can be the only way we gather to determine where God is leading us a congregation. It would certainly be good if people sent their apologies for not attending - it suggests two things: they know there's a meeting and they know they should be there.
But I really wonder whether we need to think in terms of having a variety of forums where views can be expressed and God's will discerned. Is it very unbaptist to suggest that God might lead two separate gatherings of the members of a single baptist church in the same direction? After all, we tend to take 1 Corinthians 2 as determinative for what's happening at a church meeting (at its best) and yet that was written to a community that for the most part met in small, scattered groups across the city of Corinth.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Choosing to join
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I'm not sure that our church meetings do have a particularly key role in discerning God's will for the congregation; they inform, provide a checkpoint for major decisions and invite discussion and participation but I think most of the wayfinding is done in other meetings.
In fact, one of the frustrations of church life is how few people seem to want to act like stakeholders, contributing prayerfully developed ideas and being willing to play a part in working them out: membership like a store loyalty card rather than membership like a living, breathing body. The challenge is to encourage people to be congregants rather than consumers.
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