3 Things to Remember During Synod Assembly

1. God has given us enough to do the ministry to which God has called us: If you have never been to a synod assembly deciding on the budget for the next year is one of the major focuses of the first day. This being an age of the church where things get smaller (surprise, surprise this is not the first time this has happened) that also means that frequently the budget gets smaller. “Cuts” is the business word we typically use to describe that shrinking process. As cuts happen typically people will begin to bemoan the decline of the church and/or feel hopeless as it seems ministry gets harder and harder

I operate under one basic assumption: that God has given us enough to do the ministry God has called us to. This includes the present age of the church where yes things are smaller. I don’t believe that God is cruel enough to call us to something and then not equip us. God’s call is not an unfunded government mandate.

However, notice that I said God has provided enough, not excess. I believe that one day we will come to the abundance of the wedding feast of our Lord, I will even admit that there are days that I experience the incredible abundance of our Lord. However those days are special days. More often than not I experience the provision of our Lord as that of the Israelites with the manna in the wilderness: they are permitted to take enough for 1 day and no more. God provides enough. We should take comfort in that.

Our sinful nature though makes us very anxious when we don’t have more than enough. Since, in our own perversity, “more than enough” is a standard we never achieve that means we are perpetually anxious.

We hear this anxiety quite frequently at synod assembly. We hear it at synod assembly because that same anxiety is present in the church, in our communities, and in our nation as a whole.

To paraphrase Martin Luther, anxiety cannot be reasoned with. It can only be preached to. St. John Chrysostom said it best: “let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.”

2. The church is not a business: A lot of business gets done at synod assembly, but we really need to remember something: the church is not a business. That is hard for us to hear because so much seems like a business. It can appear that congregations are mere franchises, that our goal is to show a stable customer growth pattern, and that money is our main goal.

The church is not a business. Partially this is because if we were a business, we would be a pretty bad one. More seriously, the church is not a business because God calls us to be something totally different.

Businesses are, among many other things, realistic. They deal with facts and realistic projections of what business trends will be. However, I believe Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and the whole church is founded on that central truth. Being raised from the dead is not realistic, it’s not something that is predictable, it is not something that can be discerned by consumer trends (or in the average congregation’s case giving and attendance trends).

Christ is raised from the dead and that makes us a pretty poor business.

3. New People give new life: Our synod assembly hosted a youth retreat running at the same time as our assembly. This welcomed a group of people who are not usually present at assemblies into our midst.

For a variety of reasons the vast majority of people who attend synod assemblies are in the 50’s and 60’s. This is not necessarily bad, but in this case it is great to hear the perspective of a group that is frequently not present.

The catch (you knew one was coming) is that we have to truly listen. Not treat people as the “token youth.” Not have them present so that we can teach them the “proper way.” We have to truly listen. I hope we can do that.

4 comments

  1. All I can say really is AMEN! A lot of very good intentions becone side tracked when we begin to believe we ” know better “; whether it is by not truly listening to others, or forgetting we are a faith based entity and not a financially based business.We need to endlessly and continuosly remind ourselves, IT IS GOD’S way not mine.

    1. Yep. the part that gives me hope is that God works graciously despite all our attempts to “know better.”

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