I was visiting a church council as part of a classical visioning process. Our Classis had asked each church council to participate in an appreciate inquiry about classis. While there, it became clear that few members could remember a time when their church felt engaged and motivated by classis. Few could say how classis had contributed to the spiritual life of their church, describe the most important life giving characteristic of classis, or make three wishes for classis. Few knew much about classis at all. Most only thought of classis as something their money went to. The focus of the meeting quickly shifted.
That wasn’t the worst part of the day. The worst part came when I realized I didn’t have an answer that satisfied their questions about what classis did for them. I could point to campus ministries and church plants and say that classis gives churches the opportunity do more together than they could do on their own. I could give other examples of regional ministries. I could talk about the way classis gives churches councils the opportunity to hold each other accountable. I could point to times when classis helped churches through crises. I did all of that, but still had a sense that I was not really answering their questions. They wanted to know what classis could do for a church that was not in immediate crisis but dealing with low morale and a slow decline.
As I’ve reflected on that meeting, I’ve realized that much of our talk about classis seems to center around the idea of running good meetings. Sometimes, the focus on creating a good experience so delegates can go home knowing that a good time was had by all. Sometimes the focus is on planning meetings that run smoothly, have a clear focus, provide delegates with a sense of accomplishment and finish at a decent time. But I sense that our churches need more than good meetings as they strive to minister in our culture and context, and fear that we are not very well equipped to deliver what churches need most.