Let me be up front with you – I’m about to brag on my church. I don’t know if pastors are supposed to publicly do such a thing. I do know that pride is the most deadly of sins for pastoral ministry, but the context of this particular story is worth sharing. So, in hopes that I can do this in a way that is edifying and not self-serving, here it goes…
Our church has been in a campaign for well over a year now called “Refocus, Revive, Restructure.” This isn’t rocket science, we spent about 4 months refocusing our minds on who we are as the gathered church of Graefenburg Baptist, we spent another 4-5 months reviving our hearts to the importance of church membership, and we are in our 10th month of restructuring some ways we are doing gospel ministry. Part of the restructure phase included a recommendation from the church leadership that proposed a significant change in our morning worship structure. It was a big concept and has been several months in the making, including a trial period to experience how the change would impact our morning worship.
This past Wednesday night was our quarterly business meeting and the motion to make this a permanent transition was on the floor. We of course knew there would be some opposition. We also knew there would be support. What we didn’t know was how those voices were going to be expressed. See, this is where we are used to hearing the typical church business meeting horror stories. Folks yelling at one another, harsh words being spoken, people storming out of the room, and the people of God behaving in ways that are distant from God.
But I had a hunch that wasn’t going to be the case on this night.
And it wasn’t. Yes, there was opposition. Those members gently stood up and expressed with steady, intelligent voices their concerns about the change. They had good concerns. I was glad to have heard them. In response, others stood up and shared how they saw this move as another step in gospel growth for our congregation. This took place for about thirty minutes, a room full of faithful church members expressing their hearts about our future in ways that were respectful of one another and honoring to the gospel. At one point in the exchange, I actually started to tear up. I was thinking, I am so blessed to serve a group of believers who can discuss a crucial issue like this without losing our tempers and damaging our witness.
When done correctly, this is a beautiful picture of being a Baptist – a congregational ruled government – where church members are encouraged to invest and participate in the direction of the church for future ministry.
Now, who knows what may happen tomorrow! We are indeed human and subject to human emotion. But on that night, the big stage of discussion at the business meeting, Christ was honored by his children. It didn’t surprise me in the least…GBC is a special place.
Here are two simple ways I hope this little simple story encourages you:
1. We expect the worst out of church members. Don’t do that. We have all been a part of those dreaded, awful, heart-wrenching business meetings where we represent Christ about as poorly as a gathered church could. There is a reputation out there about Christians and business meetings and I suppose we have brought that on ourselves. But we must not be pessimistic about who we are in Christ. This should be normal for us, not the exception. So believe that Christ’s presence in your congregation can work in ways that are perhaps unexpected.
2. We need to listen to each other more. More often than not in these kinds of scenarios, we listen to the other person through the lens of our counter-argument. All we hear are the points we can refute. That can change if we begin with the presupposition that our church members genuinely have the best interest of the church in mind and are attempting to voice those interests. We might not agree, but we should listen, and listen well.