January 1, 2009
Ministry or Management
Is the church primarily a community of believers striving to worship God, glorify Christ and love one another? Or is it primarily an organization that needs management? Few would argue for the second definition. Yet what would a neutral person who sat in on one of our leadership meetings (e.g., deacon board, church council, vestry, coetus or session) observe: ministry or management? This is the challenge of my new call—to help our church’s session (ruling elders) be a community of believers striving to minister in Christ’s name.
The Principal’s Office
To that end I sent out a note to all the elders expressing my desire to meet with each one individually in order to get to know them and be better partners in ministry. I heard through the grapevine that many were a bit disconcerted. They felt as if they were being called to the “principal’s office.” I reassured them it wouldn’t be painful: I don’t bite, and they weren’t in trouble. I just wanted to get to know them better.
With each elder I stated my belief that the session is a microcosm of the church. The spiritual condition of the church will reflect the spiritual condition of the session. In order for us to be spiritual leaders we must know each other; we must know our strengths and weaknesses; we must know where we excel and where we struggle; we must be able to look one another in the eye and ask, “How are you doing spiritually?” Shocking that it has to be asked—but we church leaders must be able to talk about Christ!
In order to effectively conduct the business of the church we must effectively live as Christ calls us to live—to glorify God and to love one another. Certainly the financial and administrative business of the church is important, but all too often it becomes the main thing or even the only thing. So our church committees are filled with competent bankers, lawyers, managers, educators and, occasionally, carpenters and homemakers, but we know nothing about their spiritual “competence.”
In my experience, church leadership meetings are packed with business details while underlying spiritual pain and struggle and triumph go unattended:
Does anyone know the spiritual condition of these people? Does anyone care?
The character of a church will reflect its spiritual leadership, for ill or for good. As we conduct the necessary business of the organization, let’s not forget to be about the real business of church—worshiping God, glorifying Christ and loving one another in word and deed.