I always preferred essay tests when I was in school (duh, I became a writer). I didn’t like the “objective” tests, because I felt like they weren’t as accurate in measuring how well I knew the material, at least for material that is thick in concepts and not-so-thick in memorizable facts. In law school, I became even more opposed to objective tests…we called them “multiple guess” tests…it seemed always about finding the “least wrong answer”. Give me an essay test, please!
I feel that same way when it comes to eliciting information from a person or a group of people. If learning what is on their minds is important to me, I would much rather sit down and have a conversation with them than give them an objective survey. And I especially feel that same way when it comes to discerning God’s will as a church…my concept of God’s will just does not lend itself to a series of multiple-choice questions.
And yet, the conventional wisdom (and literature) for Pastor Search efforts is to do just such a written survey to your church in order to develop a profile for your pastoral candidates. The problem with asking your church objective, demographic questions like “Place a check next to the age range you think our next pastor should be?” is that, invariably, once all the results are tabulated, what your church ends up telling you is that they want a 40-year-old pastor with 30 years of pastoral experience…and a big, red “S” on his chest would be nice as well! Good luck with that.
Objective surveys may be mildly effective (not greatly effective, but mildly so) at figuring out what the people want, but not so much at figuring out what God wants. For that, if you …
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12
Imagine being locked in a dark room with a bunch of other people with whom you must work together to find a way out. There are obstacles and opportunities throughout the room, but they are difficult to see. You truly must rely on each other to feel your way through the room, exploring every corner and piecing together the information accumulated by the group. In such a scenario, your chances of figuring it out all by yourself without anyone else’s help are slim to none. But together, it can be done.
That is very much like discerning the will of God together as a church body. For now, when it comes to seeing Spiritual truths, we all see as through a glass dimly. We are never so arrogant as when we proudly proclaim to the world that we have seen the will of God all by ourselves, and that we clearly understand it better than anyone else. In this age of the church, that does not seem to be God’s desire. Rather, He apparently intends that we would learn to come to Him together, seeking His truths together, and gently massaging those truths into one another.
But that process can be truly frustrating, especially in times of conflict. Working with a conflicted congregation, I often wonder why God doesn’t just make an appearance in their worship service one Sunday morning and tell them exactly what He is thinking about them and what He wants them to do. Frankly, it would be a lot easier for them –if not a little …
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
“After much discussion…” Those are the words we use when we’re writing minutes of a business meeting and there was a lot of discussion but not much said. When we write, “after much discussion…” it means there were plenty of folks who had something to say on the subject, but it wasn’t important enough to quote any of it here in these minutes. All that matters for posterity’s sake is…and then we put the results of the vote. From time to time, a comment is made that is important enough to put in the minutes, and we do so. But otherwise, we just write, “after much discussion…”.
The kinds of comments which end up being represented by “after much discussion…” are many. Some of them are way off the subject, irrelevant remarks which do not further the decision-making process at all. Some of them are personal in nature…too personal to memorialize forever in the meeting minutes. Some of them are nothing more than emotional venting…perhaps important for a particular person’s process but not at all helpful for the entire group. But all of them have one thing in common: From a long-term perspective of knowing how we came to this decision, they were not important.
In my experience dealing with conflicted congregations, We are not doing a very good job of teaching our churches a decision-making process which honors the Lord. Specifically, when it comes to discerning together what the Head of the church (Jesus) is calling us to do, we do not get very high scores in terms of the processes we use. Most often, the vast majority of the words we use in staff meetings, committee meetings and …