Do you understand — theologically — how our church keeps going? God, to be sure.
But do you understand how God has seen fit to keep our church going? Sometimes I don’t, but I know how in theory. It’s a two part answer: 1) We are supposed to be about following God’s will, not our own (individually or collectively), and 2) It takes everyone to accomplish that.
In our congregational polity, we are free from all outside determination. No bishops, no church hierarchy or even tradition necessarily binds us. Not even God, in any strict sense. We can do what we wish, for better or worse. But what we are challenged and called to wish to do is God’s will. Remember Jesus’ words — Jesus himself saying this — “not my will, but they will be done.”
But how in the world, in all our limitation and humanness, do we expect to know God’s will? Well, our church teaches us 1) to be humble about our abilities to get all of it, or even a little of it sometimes, and 2) we can come closest when everyone contributes.
Yep, we need all the questions. And the skeptics. And the folks who wish we were going in the other direction. We need the explanations and the tense back and forth, even the disagreements (but in love). You see, it takes a whole congregation to even approximate a facsimile of God’s will. I am going to suggest that perhaps we shouldn’t be so sure of ourselves unless we had absolutely everyone possible participating in the discernment….
And then imagine if we actually came close to articulating what God wants of us. Do you think we could do it? Don’t we all know in our personal lives the difference between knowing what we are supposed to do and doing it? Imagine how much more that distance multiplies when we are considering whether or not a congregation can do what God asks.
In church life, there’s a general rule that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. That’s not intended to be shaming so much as honest. Maybe always, but certainly in pro-secular contemporary America, many people expect church to be there for them whenever they need it. But they often don’t know how much work is involved in keeping church going. And in modern America, fewer people have less civic sense of the work one needs to contribute and invest in order for shared, public community benefits, like church, to be available.
Recently, someone tried to tell me that church was directed or “run” by certain people. Not taking the bait, I responded, “Sure thing — those who get involved and do the work.” Not everyone has the right gifts to be our treasurer, or to run a Saturday morning breakfast, or sing a solo. Not everyone has to be an Adam or Beth or Jackie, some of our “super-volunteers.” But imagine how much we’d get done if we all were! And some don’t have any extra time to spare — the young parents and those caring for sick parents, for example. But everyone has something to share. Even the most booked person, someone whose life if filled with no less than what God wants them to be doing, has something to offer the church…
You can pray for the church. You can support the church financially. You can stay in contact with church people. You can ask what ministry you might be able to help with even if you are homebound.
Here’s another possibility. Sunday is the Annual Meeting. Here’s the link to last year’s meeting minutes, the ministry area reports, and the action items. Instead of a long E-pistle this week, maybe you could look through the Annual Report. You don’t have to read every word, but check out what interests you. And you might read the minutes of last year’s meeting, since you will be asked to approve them. Or see who is signing up to be a leader. Or what the financial report from last year or the budget for next year look like.
And really, in the midst of all the facts and figures, info and detail, ask yourself, “where’s the ministry in all this, and are we doing what God wants us to?” Oh, and, of course, there’s a second question, “How could I help?”
See you in church,
P.S. Don’t forget there’s a potluck lunch too!