If we feed people spiritually, all the true institutional needs of a congregation will be taken care of.
Three years ago this month, this sentence opened the first post of what would become Digging a Deeper Well, a blog dedicated to helping church boards think and talk more deeply as part of their work. Three years… who among us could have imagined all we have lived through in that time!
We write this weekly blog out of a deep conviction that theological reflection and discernment—through scripture study, discussions of articles, prayer, and watching together for God’s activity in the world—is the essential work of church boards.
During such moments of reflection, church board members often ask with sincerity: When are we going to get down to business? Without engaging in theological discernment with one another first, a church board meeting will feel exactly like the rest of our chaotic and over-stuffed lives, with results that echo the world’s tumult.
The first chapter of Acts tells of Jesus, right before his ascension, instructing the disciples “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of God.” This instruction must have struck the disciples as both strange and frustrating. They had followed Jesus for years, witnessed his crucifixion, been astounded by his resurrection, and experienced the Risen Christ. What was there left to wait for? Presumably they were charged up and ready to go into the world to make a difference in light of all they had seen and experienced. And Jesus tells them to … wait. The waiting was for the Spirit to come at Pentecost and direct and fuel their charge into the world.
Recently, the humanist chaplain at Harvard, speaking out of his tradition, said “We don’t look to a god for answers. We are each other’s answers.” In the humanist tradition, that makes sense. But for congregations that seek to follow Jesus into the world, we begin with a conviction that we are decidedly NOT each other’s answers. We are, at our best, each other’s companions in discerning the questions. For wisdom in our answers, we need God. And so, when your church board gathers, it needs this time of deep reflection to listen for a voice and a wisdom we did not bring into the room.
The last two sentences of our first post return us to the beginning:
Here’s the thing: if church feels like the rest of our lives—meetings, tasks, to do lists—then what do we need church for? If we feed people spiritually, all the true institutional needs of a congregation will be taken care of.
After all we have experienced these last three years and all the pressing items on the agenda right now, digging a deeper well of understanding, wisdom, and strength from God is still the main thing for church boards.