It’s a Scramble

TMC Digging A Deeper Well


Just to take a sampling of news headlines over the last ten days:

Recent Rise in Robberies Leave Experts Scrambling for Answers

What now? Steelers Scrambling for Answers After 1-2 Start

China’s Thirst for Oil Sends Beijing Scrambling for Answers

Research Has Scientists Scrambling for Answers

The End of Roe Has Republicans and Democrats Scrambling for Answers

‘Paxlovid rebound’ Cases Have Experts Scrambling for Answers

Whole Generations Are Missing from Church Pews: Pastors and Leaders Are Scrambling for Answers…

Every person on your church board could be forgiven to think that today, everyone is scrambling for answers.

Pastors are moving as fast as they can to understand the new reality of church in 2022.  The growing awareness that this is not just “another year around the same track” has them scrambling for revised sermons, revised staffing models, revised stewardship plans, revised…pretty much everything.

Church folks, alarmed by what they read about churches and concerned when they see pews sitting empty, are scrambling for answers and/or putting pressure on their pastors and boards to come up with answers.

Church consultants and how-to authors (often with 7, or 10, or 12 easy steps to a better X) are scrambling to get their wares in front of perplexed churches.

Clearly, all this scrambling for answers in our culture right now is not producing much clarity.

In a recent article about the perplexing challenges of accommodating persons with disability in the church, Sam Wells, Vicar of St-Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London and one of the members of St Martin’s, Fiona Macmillan, wrote about Job’s search for “answers.”

Job had a sequence of quite legitimate, entirely appropriate, and very urgent questions. Yet in return, God gave him not answers, not solutions, but a torrent of further questions. Those questions were not defensive, not evasive, not hesitant. They were expansive, humbling, and inspiring. They led Job to transformation, wonder, and worship. They do the same to us.

What if your church board suspended the scramble for a time?  What if you put a pause on all committee reports, all assignments to “figure it out,” all attempts to respond to the pressure for clarity—and deliberately spent a few weeks on asking robustly better questions?

Or how about a monthly church board meeting where your board did nothing but work together on crafting the very best, most focused questions you can about your present ministry situation?

You might start with a discussion of the following poem.


Questions about Angels

By Billy Collins

Of all the questions you might want to ask

about angels, the only one you ever hear

is how many can dance on the head of a pin.


No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time

besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin

or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth

or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.


Do they fly through God’s body and come out singing?

Do they swing like children from the hinges

of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?

Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?


What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,

their diet of unfiltered divine light?

What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall

these tall presences can look over and see hell?


If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole

in a river and would the hole float along endlessly

filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?


If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive

in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume

the appearance of the regular mailman and

whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?


No, the medieval theologians control the court.

The only question you ever hear is about

the little dance floor on the head of a pin

where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.


It is designed to make us think in millions,

billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse

into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:

one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,

a small jazz combo working in the background.


She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful

eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over

to glance at his watch because she has been dancing

forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.


A whole meeting where nothing is done except the crafting of questions.  Like Job (and Collins), you may be led into a state of transformation and wonder.  God often works with us in just that way.



What happens in the course of Collins’ poem? Where do his questions about angels lead him, and why?


Are there questions you have been asking as a church board that have not proven helpful in yielding deeper insight for your congregation’s ministry?


What happens when your church board focuses entirely on the art of asking better questions? Where does it lead you? And, why?

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