Monday, January 22, 2007

Questions always come in threes

These conversations are helping to clarify my thinking - and at the same time raise even more questions (ah well, who said anything to do with church was simple?).

Into the belonging/membership/baptism matrix related questions to do with decision-making and legitimacy, the allocation of resources and the future shape of the church come creeping with all their potential to derail neat ideas.

BillyB -not the first member of my church to add his voice to this (but an astute observer all the same) - asks who has the hang up here - members, leaders or newcomers? The answer, I guess, is all three in different ways (though I'm not sure it's a hang up; I think it's a set of questions worth asking).

As a leader, the question for me arises in two specific areas. The first has to do with how we make decisions as a church. If most decisions rest with the church meeting which is attended by at best 20% of the membership, itself about 60% of the active and giving attenders of the church, what is the status of any of the decisions it makes?

How do we do congregational government in a way that takes account of the pressures on mortgage-paying, commuting, family raising Bromley people? I know that many will not be able to be able to make Wednesday evening gatherings - hence the Sunday meeting (but that only attracted a third of members).

So, I'd love to know how we can make use of new technology to have conversations between people who can't make a meeting in real space but can participate in cyberspace. Ideas on a post card or comment here, please.

The second reason it matters to me is that I've had conversations with non-members about joining where I've not been able to justify the intrusive interviewing method and reporting blind to a church meeting before we vote someone in. As one suggested to me, 'they get the right to see whether I measure up but I don't get to assess them in that personal way.' Others are reluctant to expose their life choices to the scrutiny of strangers for perfectly understandable reasons.

I think these are important questions to be asking and answering. It's not about replacing one tired and threadbare system of church organisation with one more attuned to our era that in turn will itself wear out. It's about asking what shape the church should be if it lives by the values of the gospel: how do we create community in a way that enables everyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus to feel welcome and at home, able to to get the resources they need to sustain their Christian discipleship in an increasingly complex environment?

The thought of getting an answer to these questions makes the conversation exciting and worthwhile.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with the church meeting is that you would have to be a very brave person to stand up in front of all those people and question a decision which is being recomended by such a group of people. Even the deacons can have a hard time if the elders have already sat in several holy huddles and made the recommendation in the first place. It isn't worth the hassle. Love the picture of church being a rose bed and cannot agree more.I used to think vision and hard work was enough but have been hurt too much to stick my neck out any more. (Only I do seem to care a bit - I'm writing this comment!)

I think with the church membership thing an interview is fair enough - you have to interview for everthing now and it does show a committment from both sides. From church meetings I have attended I don't remember great personal detail being divulged - it's normally a recount of a testimony, which seems fair enough, maybe they would prefer to give it in person.
Maybe with the new legislation we won't be able to approve members soon.
I always try and think about it as how would you deal with something if it went wrong, if you kind of 'have a procedure' it takes away some of the misunderstanding or feeling of being treated unfairly or of feeling out of control.
I don't think we could leave it to the decision of say 'paid staff' alone because like it or not motives are different if it's your job.

Am really interested in using cyber space to improve the conversation, but if it just rubber stamping where's the fun in that?