When they do surveys asking churches what the number one problem they have is, always in the top five is communication. It is the same in relationships. One study I often quote in remarriage counseling is that the top three cited reasons for divorce is money, sex, and communication. But when you break down the issues with money and sex you find that they are often times about communication and the way we hear what is being communicated to us and the way we respond to it. In organizations like churches, communication is always difficult because you often do not have the same group together twice. Just think of worship; each week some people come and others do not. So if something is announced at church, not everyone will have the opportunity to hear.
This is actually why we do this letter, so that the entire congregation might see the announcements about what is going on at the church, often in my letter you can also begin to see the struggles that Session is dealing with. Though often people will come back and complain that they did not know this or that. What I often find frustrating is when I show them in the newsletter or bulletin the issue they brought up. What I often find in the church, though, granted this is not unique here, is that people do not always hear the communication.
It reminds me of a sermon I preached in a previous congregation. After the service I had the church over to my house for a discussion. The Sermon topic was about inclusivity and how we need to be inclusive of all God’s people. Being in North Carolina, that was a difficult topic with lots of baggage, even though the church was multi-racial. During the discussion, an older woman brought up how awful my sermon was and how I should know better than to advocate for separation of racial groups. My mouth dropped, and before I could say anything another man came forward to ask her where she heard that? It was almost funny how the discussion devolved from there to be about what we think we hear and what was actually said.
People who study things like this say that more often than not the problem with communication is more that the hearer makes a conscious or subconscious choice to hear or not hear what is being said. When I was a kid and throughout all of my schooling, I was taught active listening. This is a way of listening that engages the talker so that you can better understand what they are saying. This is often why I stop people, and make statements or ask questions to see that I am understanding what is being said. This is important because to hear we must understand what exactly is being communicated to us.
The truth in the Presbyterian Church is that we are not a congregational polity, so often by nature of the way we are organized, not everything is always going to be known by everyone. Saying that, the Session is going to try and do a better job of communicating the points and issues that we’re discussing at session. But beyond that, one of the best ways for people to solve feeling like they are not being told what is going on is to get involved. When you are involved, you have a better connection to what is going on because you see it.
Whether it is in your personal life, work, communities, or the church, when you feel that you are missing out on communications, step back and ask, what is it that I do not feel I am being told. Then assess who to approach. If it is an area of interest, like Christian Education or Finance, maybe you need to join those committees so you know what is going on, but to better understand and hear what is being communicated I suggest:
We often forget that the church is not a divine organization, nor are the people working and attending it, but we are all trying to serve God the best we can, and that means that we all have the responsibility to do the best we can to communicate and to hear.
I know by now you all have seen the commercials by the Las Vegas Tourism board “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The funny thing is that nothing really stays in Vegas except for your money if you should decide to gamble. Most of the times when I have had friends make their way to Las Vegas, in one way or another the stories of what they did came out.
This week we end this time between Christmas and Lent celebrating the Transfiguration, this mysterious and magical story of a moment in Christ’s ministry when Jesus begins to reveal his true nature to his disciples. Interestingly, here, as in other places in the gospel, Jesus commands his followers not to tell of this event, you know, “What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain?” Yeah, just like in Vegas, the story did not stay there. In fact, it is one of the few events that are written of in all four gospels as well as the letters. While Christ does give permission to share this after his end, there is evidence that it was shared before, but for me one of the great biblical questions has been “Why does Christ not want this shared at that time?”
Many scholars posit various understandings as to why Christ does not want his disciples to spread their witness. Many will follow a literal interpretation saying that it is a timing thing, which in part may be accurate. However, the reasoning they use is that it is too dangerous at that time. Honestly, I discount that pretty quickly because that does not hold to the pattern. Though there are many other interpretations, including the one about human nature making us always do what we are told not to! Interesting, but again, that is more of a modern vantage point being forced onto an historic text.
I do know that the expectation is that this story is ultimately to be told, but we also know that the rumors of this story did get out before the crucifixion. But the reason Christ did this was not reverse psychology or fear; rather, it was so that people could have the time to see who Christ was, that Christ was not trying to supersede Elijah or any prophesy, but he had come to fulfill it. This means that the people had to see and witness the whole story so that they might come to believe. We know this is true, because even the disciples were mostly hanging on until they came to know the whole story.
In my mind the configuration story tells us not only about Christ and his divinity, it shows us that Christ longs for us all to come and believe, doing everything he can to show that he really is the son of God, but then pointing the figure back to us asking if we accept and believe. Often times we look at faith and say “if this that or the other thing happens (the way I want) then I will believe.” The truth is, it does not work that way; Christ did what he could, he fulfilled the prophesies as they needed to be fulfilled and he worked the miracles he needed to work, but at the end of the day the choice comes back to whether we accept or not.
As you think and meditate on the scripture, think about how you would feel if you were Peter, James, or John. Would you understand what you saw, would you want to go tell? Would you understand why Christ said to wait? See you Sunday!
This week we begin to look at our neighbors in the Gathering. When we ask ourselves why the church and discipleship is important, the answer is always about how we help and enable people to gain a deeper and fuller understanding of who God is, this is evangelism. For the next couple of weeks as we look at specific groups in the community, I am going to be following Romans 14:1-15:13 which I like to think of as a primer for evangelism. This week we are going to specifically look at Romans 14:1-12.
This has been a theme that the traditional service has been working through the last few weeks, and it is central to any successful understanding of Christ, and that is how we accept and love our neighbor. Undergirding this whole pericope is that our role is to give people the tools to understand their faith but not to force or judge them. This is hard and obviously, since Paul is writing about the problem, something that the early church faced.
But it makes sense, as early Christians, the question of who was in and who was out was of extreme importance, as was the discernment of who to listen to and who not to listen to. This is all complicated by our own human tendency to gravitate and trust people who are most like us vs. those who are not. Yes, it is difficult to admit, but when they do the studies, even the most self-proclaimed unbiased person will almost always gravitate to the group that is the most familiar. This naturally occurs in high school lunchrooms every school day!
Thus, the model of community that Paul is advocating is not just counter-cultural, but it is also counter intuitive! Granted this is not new for the New Testament or even the Hebrew texts that warn of the problems that arise by not holding one’s human nature in check. The problem, as we see further in this pericope is that when we choose not to accept or welcome, we do not just exclude others, but we go so far as to deny God!
This is where things really get difficult, and where Christian history gets very muddled and bleak. When missionaries went out into the world, namely in the 1400’s and forward, giving them the benefit of the doubt, in well-meaning ways wanted to share and convert people to the faith. The problem was that many did this in ways that did not account for the people who were there. This means that instead of accepting people where they were at and allowing them to incorporate their cultural understandings, the churches dictated the way they were to live, work and commune. As we know, this caused a lot of problems! This is not what Paul wrote of when he wrote this passage.
Rather, the image that Paul gives is to meet and understand people where they are, recognizing that they are fully accepted and made right through God. This week we are going to start our journey of asking, “Who is my neighbor.” This is interesting because what we think is our neighbor and what actually is our neighbor are often two different things. It is also easy to see how quickly one thing can be shadowed by our preconceptions and desires. It also can be clouded by what we think we know. That is evident in the largest single demographic. This is a group that is called the metro-fusion, middle-aged single individuals. It does make sense when we think of the large LGBT community that is around the church, but we have to remember that this group is also a very diverse group and not exclusively LGBT. As the largest single demographic, it shows that while we are not considered “downtown,” many of those who are around us live a fairly urban lifestyle which impacts how we connect to them as a congregation.
This is a particularly hard group for the church to reach for many reasons, but churches that have an emphasis on spirituality, meditation, and things like that seem to be good draws for this group. In fact, much of what we do in the Gathering today would connect well with this group. See below for a complete description of this group and pray for them through the week. Come in Sunday and we will keep them in mind as we begin our discussion on “Who is my Neighbor?”
When I was in seminary and first heard the hymn “Here I Am Lord” I loved it. It spoke to me; it felt real. But after the weekly recitations during the student sermons, I began to think about the words, tone, and general problem, the Hymn became clear. When reading the Old Testament with modern eyes we gain an understanding that a calling is individual and perfect. It is a notion that calling is exclusively between an individual and God.
This is often the case when people look at stories like the Call of Samuel. This is the story of the young boy apprenticed to a prophet, whose life and role would shape the Hebrew people. But, in the beginning, Samuel was not sure of his calling or even who the voice was; it took another, his “master,” to give him the insight to understand the call. Eli knew that this was coming. Eli also knew that neither he nor his family could be the one to carry forward; they had become lost to themselves, and his children had found their way into debauchery.
The great reformers worried about that a lot because they saw how the individual calling had stirred people into pride and, though the term was not coined at that time what we understand today to be, narcissism. In other words, often the individual calling became more about what makes me feel good or what feels right to me rather than what is God calling me to do within the community and the world we are in.
In a fundamental way, this is why people often get burned out in their callings, because they do not look to others or walk with others in their journey. When I see people the most burned out, the common thread is that they either do not want to work with others, they want to go it alone or fix everything themselves rather than giving the chance to listen to others, or are unwilling to struggle.
The truth of call is that God calls us to be part of the body, and while the call is individual, it is specific and affirmed by the community. This is a central understanding of Call in the Presbyterian Church. It is also why we see no difference in ordination between all church leaders, lay and clergy, except for purpose. I guess a better way to put it is that while call is always individual, it is always two-pronged, one that highlights the gifts and skills we have and the second to ask how those can be used within the community.
You know, it is interesting that when I interviewed, the number one complaint people had was that “everyone” was burnt out, and the number two complaint was that we have “No Children.” Interestingly, when people spoke of the burnout often people highlighted that they were trying so hard and nobody else was or that they had to accomplish this or that because nobody else was qualified. What is both funny and sad is that the most unbiblical calling there ever has been is the calling to save the church. And given time to do more research I would posit that this was why not only our church but so many churches are struggling.
When they are recognized and when we are given freedom to live them out, we feel good and worthy of God. The problem, though, is often we find ourselves in situations where our callings bring us to a place of great difficulty. We often label this as burnout, when we are ready to throw our hand in the air and call it quits. I can only imagine how much “burnout” the prophets experienced as they went on their often lone journey.
Eli was a great leader, but knew that the calling of Samuel meant a change, that God would tear down all that was, in order to create something new. Samuel would be the catalyst for this change, but along the way many others would have their callings, and the community would always have its constant change, but the message of God through Samuel never changed. And that was for the people to come together, celebrate God, and live a life within that.
It is interesting, when we sing the song, “Here I Am Lord,” we often forget that we are asking God to place us in impossible situations. Though within that calling we trust that God will work and carry us through. This means that our calling will not be frustrationless, or devoid of difficulties, but when those happen we recognize that we are doing the Lord’s work and trust that God is using us for His plan.
This week we are reading the most important text from the book of Leviticus. It is interesting: a few years ago when I had an intern from a more evangelical background and I was away when this passage came up I asked him to challenge himself and preach on this text. He refused, stating that it was too close to the passage on Homosexuality and he was afraid, in that fairly moderate, but accepting congregation, to preach on something like that.
Unfortunately, that is how many see Leviticus. When many of the Gay and Lesbian people hear this passage, they run the other direction or even stay away thinking they know what to expect. Even beyond that group many cast it off as a “rule book” or something that is just extremely boring. All of those preconceived notions keep us from understanding Leviticus and really coming to a positive relationship with the book for what it is.
Leviticus is a code for how to live as a healthy community ordered and focused on worshipping God. Leviticus was also written for a specific people, with certain understandings, at a moment in time. In fact, the book of Leviticus, as we know from other biblical texts, was not always followed, and at times was seemingly contradicted; however, the over-arching understanding and message of the book remains important.
Marry Douglass, a British anthropologist who became very interested in the Levitical codes as they related to the culture pointed to Leviticus 19:18 as the pinnacle text in the book. Like a keystone that holds the whole book together, this text, recited by Christ, known as the second commandment, is the key to understanding the whole book “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Interestingly, most Christians do not know that this is even in the Old Testament; even more interestingly, when people recite the Levitical codes as a decree on someone else, they miss that at the heart of Leviticus itself is the call for forgiveness.
I often think about it with a line worker I counseled once. He was always getting in trouble with his boss. Though he thought he was always doing the right thing, he would spend a lot of time correcting what the other workers were doing. This infuriated the boss and when his boss told him to stop the man felt beaten so he came to talk through it with me. I asked him the simple question of whether or not it was his job to correct them. When he said no, I asked, “Might your boss have told them to do it differently? Might you have done something dangerous paying too much attention to others?” The man perked up and said “Oh!”
When he went to work the next day and apologized to his boss, his boss let him know that his boss could see more than he could, and in fact his corrections almost caused him to get into a serious accident had the boss not stopped him. And the boss told the man: “This is the job you have and the only one you can control is yourself. You always want to be aware of what else is going on, but worry about where you are first; then ask for help if you see something wrong.”
As people of faith, our first place is to confess where we are coming from but also to always recognize that we are called to live in this community together, ordering our lives one love for one another, not judgments.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Le 19:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
I have been told I have blue eyes. I know I have seen their reflection and pictures of them, but I have never really seen my own eyes. Out of my eyes I see the world, which is interpreted through the lenses of my eyes and the processing of my brain. Together, they give me an understanding of the world and help me to see what my role is within the world. However, no matter how good or bad the light is, I need some light to make my eyes work.
Without light, I cannot see. In some ways I am lucky when it comes to light. Being northern European through ancestry, my genetically altered blue eyes have been adapted to give me a keen ability to see with just a fraction of light. Though on an overcast night with no light source at all, my world is as dark as everyone else’s and no matter how hard I try, until I find some light source my eyes are useless.
In the creation narrative found in John 1 we see for the first time that Christ is integral to both the creation and development of the world. He has always been there, but the world did not know him. Interestingly, this is the only biblical glimpse into the pre-earthly life of Christ and is the only gospel to place Christ in full divinity with God. We will come back to that at a later date, but the creating and Christ’s role within it is very similar to Psalm 19 that we read last week.
The two symbols both the psalm and John 1 touch on is word and light. Interestingly, setting aside taste and smell, the writers are bringing creation down to a sensory level as if existence itself was all about what we see and what we hear. This makes sense, especially as thinking people discern the oldest question in the world “how did we get here?”
Rooted in the senses of sight and sound shows us that the community’s interest in the creation of the world was not as connected to the how, but the why. This is in contrast to the Genesis 1 story that is trying to scientifically establish creation, but that is a topic for another day. For the people of Christ’s time, the world they were in was neither comfortable nor understandable. Though “free” they were not, their enslavement to an unjust government meant their persecution as well the unfairness that comes from being dominated by another culture.
This brought people more to a curiosity about why God would even embark on creation if it was to be so corrupt. This then hits the essential question and reason for making sure that Christ was at creation, since God created the world for good and Christ’s hands were part of creation itself, then it is us that take creation, exploit it, and create the evils we face.
This means that when Christ comes into the world in which he created, for the first time people can see for themselves God. But we still have a choice about what we do with that; unfortunately, we know the choice that is made, rejection. Though even in our rejection, God gives us the grace once again to be full.
It is interesting that throughout the whole existence of the world, God and Christ are present, though often we choose to reject or set aside that vision. Often, like our eyes, we take God for granted. We may know God is there, but only really miss God when we cannot see. For the people in Christ’s time it was hard for them to see God, to know God, even though God had always been there. Moreover, when we open our eyes and ears, we can see and hear his fullness.
We know from our experience that the church works well when we strive to help people feel belonging. Conversely, we also know how hard it hurts when we have conflict. In our leaders retreat this was one of the pairs that we highlighted as things that make us happy and things that make us sad.
The problem with conflict is that it is unavoidable! Conflict occurs every time you have two people who do not know everything about each other forced to work, live or be together. This happens mostly out of ignorance, cultural differences, or general unknowing. This Conflict is not typically bad unless we are inflexible or unwilling to give acceptance. As a mentor of mine said, “Healthy conflict is a good thing, because that is how you grow. But conflict for the sake of conflict will destroy God’s kingdom faster then anything else.”
Often this is why churches are so hurt by conflict, because in churches there are times when the conflict is more about power and being right than moving the community forward. One sad thing I once heard an elder say in one of my congregations “We need more conflict on Session so people really know what they are doing.” So this elder went against their own thoughts and desires to create more conflict. The problem with this is that at the end of the day instead of feeling like the right decision was made, the board felt defeated, and the decision that was ultimately made was the minority one this elder had championed, and in time that decision came back and hurt the congregation.
Again, like last week’s discussion of doing things together and suspicion, with conflict and feeling belonging there is a choice that is made somewhere in the journey that the conflict is more important than the community which forces people to take sides and fight before understanding.
Belonging is the number one thing people strive for, but in belonging and to make someone feel like they belong people must reach out and work through their conflict, but there also has to be the flexibility that my way is not the only way. I often preach that for me one of the essentials to being a reformed Christian is the acceptance that we do not know anything fully, and while that does not always make us wrong (though for brevity I say that at times) it does mean that our understanding is always at some level incomplete. Therefore, we need others to complete us and we are never going to grow unless we accept each other for the unique gift that God has made us. Thus, when we are in conflict, we have to ask why and how we can move forward within that conflict.
When institutes like Alban that work with churches in conflict notice that with exception of sexual abuse and financial misconduct, most conflict in congregation derives from issues and battles that have waged from early on in the congregations, in some cases, like the historic rivalry of the Hatfields and McCoys, the initial issue has been lost. I once worked with a church that had been in existence for over 100 years and never had a pastor stay longer than 5 years (the average lasting 2.5). When I worked with them we asked the question “why?”
We found that the stated reason for leaving was virtually the same and the complaints of the congregation were also that way. They made a choice at that point to name and close the past and move forward. When the issue was raised as the new pastor came in, it was expected and addressed. Amazingly, NO CONFLICT! Instead they were able to accept the pastor for who he was and had a great time together in ministry.
When we meet people where they are and accept them, we can name and understand conflict, which helps us to grow, but when we let the conflict or our pursuit of being right be our guide, we will in time destroy our community and possibly seriously injure the body of Christ through the witness that we share with the world that comes from non-acceptance and furthering conflict. However, when we learn acceptance, and the ability to accept and respect each other, while we will still have conflict most of the time that conflict will make us stronger will bring the community together when we learn to accept and move forward together.
We have all read the story of Jonah, or have heard it many times before. Jonah’s story has everything in it, but often in the midst of the fantastic story, the message gets lost. Jonah liked his life, it was comfortable, he blended in, but God had other plans for him. God needed Jonah to be the prophet and no matter what Jonah did, there was no way he would escape his call, though he tried. I want to highlight the story of Jonah because there are a few crucial tings that happen in that story that give insight into what God calls for in righteous living.
First, there is the aspect of Judgment and Justice. Jonah has taken the judgmental position that the people of Nineveh are beyond saving. But God wants to give them a chance, God wants them to experience Grace, which Jonah takes onto himself to deny the people, as if he knew more than God. Jonah is very comfortable in his judgment, but when asked to pursue Justice, he is not and runs.
Second, there is the desire of God that all people have a chance for redemption. We all make mistakes! But what actually makes our mistakes worse and even corrosive is when:
a) we do not learn from them, and
b) society does not give us a chance to overcome them.
And finally, that despite our own stubbornness, bravado, or insistence on being right, God will not be stopped and in time will bring us to fulfilling our call.
In Deuteronomy, the passage this week, the writer is laying out a relationship between God and man where God is letting us know that we have a choice. We can choose to follow God or seek to be true to the life God calls us to or we can choose a different way. God knows what we choose and most of the time it is not God.
The interesting thing is that in the book of Jonah, Jonah comes back to this teaching and the ones like it from the Torah and tells God off saying “How can you do this?” where God is very much engaged saying “How can I not?”
God wants the best for us, but knows us intimately because he created us. When we come into this world we have a choice to follow God, or to follow human nature. The problem is that Human Nature can be deceptive and can make us think we are more right than we are, causing us to choose a way that directs us away from God.
Ultimately, this unavoidable choice away from God pulls us into a life that is not going to be easy and smooth, but even though we may choose to reject God, God never rejects us. We learn and grow and continually find ways to be made more full in Christ.
The Creation stories are found in various different places in the Bible. One of the accounts is the poetic tales that are found throughout the Psalms. In Psalm 19 we hear David sing of his understanding of the creation story. While we see elements that are present within the first two, the understanding this psalm gives us helps us to understand how the people viewed creation and its relationship to life in general. Most people do not know Psalm 19, though every Sunday morning before I begin the sermon I repeat the last verse, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Some scholars, even translations, break the psalm into two parts, the first being the creation story and the second, the law. Breaking it up may make it easier to read and understand since the two are seemingly disparate thoughts, though in our understanding of creation, especially how we understand it, there is a trust and relationship that is supposed to happen within it.
This poetic tale establishes an understanding of the law that links the perfection of the law to the perfection of creation. Moreover, the deliberate way in which God creates, is also the deliberate call to how we are supposed to live our lives.
The psalmist, in this case ascribed to David, establishes that the following of the law will bring one to the riches of God, and the rejection will equal abandonment. Though, interestingly, as glorified as the psalmist makes creation and the law, the writer also admits to the reality that he has fallen, is tempted and has sinned in ways that he knows and some that he does not.
This ends the passage with the prayer at the creation of the new day which is a simple prayer asking to be kept pure for just one day, allowing the reader a moment to be perfect in God’s sight.
Interestingly, this morning instead of hitting snooze, I turned off the alarm. Waking up 10 minutes late took away all of my buffer time making me rushed and not really “on my game.” Interesting how that happens. A simple mistake just seems to throw everything off. Conversely, when I get to start the day off right, have my moments with God, respect myself in time to get ready and out I find the whole day works better and I do not find myself frustrated or forlorn. I feel right and ready; most importantly I am able to have perspective and understanding.
This creation poem is not like two found in genesis. It is not trying to tell us what our role is within creation, but it is witnessing to the power and glory that came from creation. Moreover, it is showing us that there is more to the creation than what we see, there is the law that governs our community and there is the individual commitment, which calls us to be a new creation every day.
When people come into my office for career counseling or life coaching, one of my favorite exercises is to have them take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, and have them put a smiley face on one side and a frowney face on the other. On the smiley side they write down the things that are going well and, as you might guess, on the frowney side they write down the things that are not going well.
I do this for two reasons. The first reason is to name things. Many of you have probably read the Harry Potter Series; in that series we meet the villain Voldermort, who Harry insists on naming, much to the chagrin of the rest of the community who refers to Voldermort as the “one who must not be named.” This is actually a very important theological point, in that namelessness is power. Once something is named it can be addressed, and eventually overcome or strengthened. So when we put a name to the things that we find to be negative, they lose power, and when we name the positive things they can be built upon.
Secondly, I have watched and seen how negativity is like an emotional cancer that can take over one person and spread to another. Negativity is so powerful that it can at times change something good into something bad or, worse, cause us to close ourselves off to the reality of what is going on. Often I find that people let the negative take over, leaving behind that which is good.
Ultimately, in almost every case I have seen, negativity, dysfunction, sadness, etc. are a choice. I know some will bring up depression and like psychological problems, but I would come back and say even there everyone at some point makes a choice to get help, or not.
As I mentioned last week we are going to go through a list of things that happen when things are going well in the church and not so well over the next few weeks. It so works out that the positives and negatives seem to balance each other out. This week I am going to highlight the joy that happens when we “Do stuff together” and the “suspicion” that some have in the church. Again, there is a choice!
Over the past year, I have seen that there is a lot of joy when we come together as a church family. When we set aside all politics and just enjoy ourselves. One of the greatest examples of this is the monthly Game Nights. With no agenda beyond fellowship, the gathered community that evening eats, talks and enjoys each other for who they are. What makes it so special is that often we talk and through the meal or the games we really get to know each other and some of the struggles that we have, as well as some of the blessings in our lives. More than anything, because we are getting to know each other in a genuine way, we begin to trust and through that trust, we share and open up.
That is the opposite of the feeling that some have in the church of “suspicion.” There are a lot of reasons why people are suspicious in our congregation or have vast conspiracy theories. On all levels of leadership, at times there have been abuses of power and, at times, bad decisions. Heck, we are a 120+ year old church in a 2000+ year old religion, it is bound to happen. Saying that, often time suspicion comes from our lack of trust, understanding, or knowledge. Take, for instance gossip, did you know that gossip is one of the most talked about sins in the bible, and one of the most evil? Anyhow, gossip breeds suspicion, because most of the time within gossip is a narrative of incomplete information.
This is really prevalent in churches, unlike businesses and other institutions, because decisions are made in various different ways. Sometimes we are thinking of how we support the greater mission of the church, sometimes we are thinking about addressing missional needs in our community, and sometimes we are addressing emergent needs in our congregation. All of these reasons and a lot more sometimes makes understanding the reasoning of the Session and other leaders seem inconsistent and raises questions, but when you know, and more importantly, trust those who lead, you understand that everything we do is ultimately for the Glory of God.
Interestingly, upon finishing my dissertation on a similar topic, I found another couple dozen who found the same conclusion, that when we take the time and commit to real dialog, sharing faith stories, and leaving agendas out of our time together, churches, almost by magic change and become healthier, and the people who are involved in those churches tend to feel far more complete and better about themselves.
However, like all the topics we are going to look at, there is a choice that happens. When you feel suspicious, what is the best way to address that? Get to know the leaders and others in the church. Take time to open up to them, and let them open up to you. Leave agendas out, and just be present. I know it is not a quick fix, but really, what quick fix is ever a good fix?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen