The Local Congregation

Saying “I do” To working for PEACE-FILLED RELATIONSHIPS that reflect the love of Christ  To working for a CONGREGATION UNITED IN ITS MINISTRY AND MISSION  To working for a CHURCH THAT LIVES OUT ITS UNDERSTANDING OF THE FAITH as described in the PC(USA) ConstitutionWhen a person says “I do” to this ordination question, they are committing themselves to a threefold task:

1.     To work for peace-filled relationships that reflect the love of Christ.

2.     To work for a congregation united in its ministry and mission.

3.     To work for a church that lives out its understanding of the faith as described in the PC(USA) Constitution.

All of this would be very easy except that the church is full of human beings We are all, on our best days, trying to live our lives the way we understand God has called us to live. Yet as we grow in our faith we are always faced with change. A congregation is not a static group of people. It is a collection of siblings growing at different rates in the same space.

The church is similar to a vegetable garden. Some plants grow straight and tall. Some are vines that can take over all the space if you let them. Some plants grow unseen until harvest. We see the same things with individuals within the church. The challenge is to nourish this growth while dealing with the conflict that can be caused by different people changing at the same time in the same space. That conflict can be between just two people over a personal issue, as in the case of Euodia and Syntyche, or it can be about several divisions in the congregation as in Corinthians.

The presence of conflict does not mean that your congregation is a problem church. All congregations have problems at one time or another. When you accept that, you will be better able to face the challenge and find solutions. Ruling elders and deacons who do not admit there are problems cannot lead their congregations well.

There is a very human tendency to want placidness, quiet, and agreement. Sessions will use the appeal for unity to promote peace. Sessions can also use an appeal for unity to enforce purity. Neither approach is healthy. What is healthy is creating an atmosphere where people can challenge the status quo and ask questions about the faith.

This may rattle the unity by making some people feel uncomfortable. Congregations are generally uncomfortable about being uncomfortable. The session’s role is to lead in that tension without panic or a simplistic panacea. Sometimes that will mean making difficult choices. It would be rare for a ruling elder to live out his or her three-year term and never face a hard decision. Ruling elders are elected to make decisions. We all want to say yes to anyone’s good idea but there is a finite amount of time and money that can utilized. However, there is an infinite amount of hope and love that can be used to make those decisions.

For Reflection and Discussion:

One member of the congregation is a professional painter. Another member is a professional decorator. They are both willing to re-paint the fellowship hall but have very different ideas about the colors. How would you work toward a decision and maintain the peace, unity, and purity in such a situation?