Pay Attention

“We learn to praise God not by paying compliments, but by paying attention,” Frederick Buechner once wrote. It’s an excellent guideline for church board meetings.

Psalm 148 includes the verses:

Praise God, sun and moon;
praise God, all you shining stars!
Praise God, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for God commanded and they were created.
God established them for ever and ever;
God fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

My question: Where is the dividing line between what God has established and what we decide we need to take on our shoulders? Of course, we are not to live in God’s world or participate in God’s church without lifting a finger. But, in most of the church boards I’ve served with, faithful folk reach the point – sooner than later – where the unspoken attitude and action is “thanks, God, we can take it from here.” In that moment, paying attention to the purposes, intentions, and radical grace of God takes a backseat to prudent decisions, reasonable debate, and linear deliberation. (Well, not always so linear…)

God fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Roberts’ Rules of Order may be perfectly fine for any number of meeting settings, but not for the explicit faithfulness of the monthly Council, Vestry, Session, or Deacons meeting. We gather to make decisions, but the “decision” to be made is: How, by doing this thing—or deciding not to do that thing–do we praise God? How do we serve God? How do we show the world a clearer sense of God’s love and justice?

This takes practice and imagination. It takes a monthly meeting that let’s us practice paying attention to God’s way of operating in the world God has created and redeemed.

So, let’s practice. Next week: create a sample agenda for a 90 minute (at most) church board meeting that puts paying attention to God first. And still gets “all the work” done.


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