It’s hard to believe that this is Transfiguration Sunday… and that next Wednesday we remember that we are dust. This time of year we engage in a form of spiritual whiplash: moving from mountaintop experiences to remembering our own mortality. This time of year isn’t for wimps.
As I move around this Presbytery, this plays out in other ways. Many of our congregations are a mashup of moments when we experience the heights of our communal faith experience in worship, only to feel a complete reversal as we sit around the Session table and discuss the budget. It happens in the other direction as well – with Session meetings being all faith-in-action, and Sunday morning leaving us feeling parched.
Of course, this makes sense. Our congregations are also a mashup. We’re petty and generous, nit-picking and expansive in our love. We don’t stand up to bullies and we encourage folks to burn-out. We also encourage each other and find ways for folks to use gifts and skills. We welcome the stranger and ignore them (sometimes simultaneously!). We have a knack of bringing out both the best and worst in each other. Week after week we offer the same inconsistency. It’s a wonder we’re still around. (Good thing we are fluent in this whole resurrection business, right?)
Given that church is made up of humans (and total depravity being our calling card) perhaps we should simply be grateful for those moments of grace? Those moments when we feel that the Church really is about kin-dom building? Should we be content with what we have, and not covet what we don’t?
No. Although I don’t ascribe to the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian Perfection (google it!), I do believe we are the church reformed and always being reformed. Whether that reformation comes from God or from our own desires for something better… we are called to challenge the status-quo and work toward the kin-dom.
So, where do we start? How does your congregation move from good to great? How do you move from inconsistency to a more consistent pattern of, well, being the church?
It begins with a healthy dose of introspection and assessment. It absolutely requires someone(s) from the outside letting you know what they see and experience. There are several solid tools available for this – including the Congregational Assessment Tool by Holy Cow Consulting. There are other ways of auditing programming and organizational structure, but do know this is really hard to do (impossible!) without someone outside the organization letting you know what they see. It requires someone you trust holding up the mirror for you and commenting that that particular style doesn’t work.
If it would be helpful for me to come and hold up a mirror for you, just let me know. I’d only ask that you would do the same for me.