There are a few axioms that are part of Presbyterian canon. “Decently and in Order” is perhaps the most beloved, but there are others that work their way into the common work we do. I’ve always been a fan of “Frozen Chosen”, until a good friend pointed out that in his experience we were becoming “Awed and Thawed” (the jury on that is still out!).
“Trust the Process” may be for me not so much a statement of known truth as it is a prayer. The “Process” is the agreed upon means to get from one place to another. Because of our constitution (both parts!) we aren’t constantly reworking the larger processes. We elect folks who make decisions and ask them to do three things – to bring their very best gifts, to listen closely to the others at the table, and to discern the movement of the Spirit.
When it works? When it works you know you are standing on holy ground. It’s a shoes-off moment. There is a feeling of hope and confidence and a deep joy that is not dependent on the nature of the decision… but in the knowledge that the decision was well-made. How I hope you know this joy, even when the decisions are difficult.
When it doesn’t work, my hunch is that it isn’t because the process failed us, but because we failed the process. There are so many ways we sabotage our work together:
- We lean on the same leadership. Perpetually.
- All the leadership looks the same
- The real decisions are made in the parking lot
- The pastor calls the shots – whether they want to or not
- There are voices at our meetings other than those elected to be there
- We focus on what we want for our church… and not what God wants for God’s church
- We hold grudges and construct turf wars
- There’s an agreed upon process… and then there is the one we follow
- We fill seats on our boards instead of looking for folks with gifts
- Leadership training is relegated to a few hours
- We’ve tweaked the process to accommodate our context to the point where it is not recognizable
Of course, there are times when our process is broken. It’s fitting that we have a process to correct our process, no? We reform our Constitution constantly… even now there are Presbyterian siblings who are crafting overtures to our General Assembly for that very purpose.
All these processes exist for one purpose – to assist congregations in bringing the Good News to the communities in which they serve. May you know this joy as well!