Monday, September 18, 2006

Belonging and membership revisited

'The challenge is to encourage people to be congregants rather than consumers.' So says Wulf and I think he's put his finger on a key issue.

We come at most things in life these days as consumers. But belonging to a church requires that we come with different expectations. There's nothing wrong in wanting to get something out of belonging. But there has also got to be a desire to give something of ourselves. I suspect this is what lies behind the term 'congregant' in Wulf's post.

I think he's also right to question whether church meetings are about discerning God's will from scratch. I think he's suggesting that their role is to discern whether leaders have themselves correctly discerned where God wants to take us. In that sense they operate as a check and balance against excessive ministerial domination of churches - and are probably a good thing.

Baptists have often seemed uncomfortable with 'leadership', feeling that every decision must be made by the gathered congregation. That is, of course, a recipe for paralysis and an invitation to the loud to dominate proceedings. It puts a lot of people off participating in meetings. I've spoken to a number of church members who stay away from church meetings because their voice wouldn't be heard in the hubbub and the clamour of those who always feel the need to express themselves - whether or not they have something useful to say.

If some members view the church meeting as a place where they have the right to speak, are they acting as congregants or consumers. Sometimes, I think, they are acting as the latter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon

We met a long time ago when you visited Kirkintilloch Baptist Church near Glasgow.

I find myself wondering here about this issue of church meetings, would not want to downplay leadership it enough to say that church meetings are useful as a check and a balance. Can they not also be a source of creativity and insight. Is part of the problem not that one of the responsibilities of leadership is to create a context where people can participate and that such participation is also a spiritual discipline that has to be taught within a community rather than simply behaviour that can be assumed to be known. I don't know, I am only wondering.