Let's Talk About Numbers

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Let's talk. We can not move forward if we are not willing to talk with one another. The Network has posted many articles since Synod 2022. The last five posts had 5400 readings yet we as a congregation of Christians provided less than 10 comments on those posts. Those are the numbers. So let's start talking!

There are those that may be thinking, "Synod's done, so what's there to talk about? I'm just a member of the Church. Synod and those meetings are for pastors, elders, and other leadership members, not for me. So why comment?" 

My response? Nothing could be further from the truth! 

We are all children of God, we are His Church on earth. We are Christians! We have a say, we must speak up and talk with one another, in fact we were told to do exactly that by the Apostles.

Jesus Christ, the greatest leader of our faith and of all Christians and churches throughout the world, would speak to his disciples and to the people, the lambs of the world, by inviting us to speak with one another and with HIM!

Jesus invites YOU to talk, to talk about the Church—its direction, and about how you feel about that direction. Jesus did not raise his students to sit and just listen. He engaged them in conversation, what a beautiful leader Christ is today! Yes, today He is calling us to talk, yet we are not listening if we go by the numbers. 

5400 of you have read the recent articles and only a couple of comments have been made by the members. Can you imagine Jesus speaking to the masses and no one engaging in conversation? What would have happened, the people would have missed the greatest gift ever. We are missing a gift, an opportunity to talk and listen and engage in conversation about OUR Church. The Church is not just for pastors, elders, and leadership teams. No, it is for YOU!

I implore you to read or re-read the articles, and speak up, make your voice be heard. Remember to engage with respect and love with all who write a comment, even if you disagree. As I teach my students, engage with respect and by doing so you will learn and grow.

As a congregation of all CRC we must grow and to do so is to talk. 

Yes, sisters and brothers, we can talk.

Peace and love to all,

Jeffrey Thomson

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Jeffrey, 

As the author of some of the articles you reference, I appreciate your enthusiasm for the conversation. I have also appreciated you taking the time to comment on some of those articles. I think you and I share a desire for more robust listening and discernment. 

That said, I don't think I share your desire to see the conversation happen in the comments section of a blog, (he wrote ironically). 

As you note, our assemblies (council, classis and Synod) are the formal setting for this discernment. And, so far as I can tell, many of our assemblies (not just Synod, but also classes and council) are diving into the main issues and not avoiding the conversation. This is as it should be. 

The other main place I think this conversation belongs is within congregations. Next Steps Discernment is a process by which a congregation can meaningfully engage the issues in ways that support the council's decision-making. That seems like the higher priority and the better home for these kinds of conversations. If no one ever commented on one of my blogs, but if even one church council engaged in this discernment more intentionally and thoughtfully because of the blog, that would be a tremendous success in my book. 

To tell you the truth, I've witnessed so many destructive online debates that I have very little interest or appetite in discussing issues via comment boxes. The better place for the conversation, in my judgment, is within communities where we are known to one another, and are walking together in practical, daily discipleship. There are some online communities that can provide a home for such dialogue, but they are usually communities where people are already strongly oriented around listening (reading) to understand and support one another. Perhaps The Network could become a community like that some day. But I don't expect it to function that way now. 

Respectfully,

Sean Baker

 

Thank you Sean for your feedback!

Yes, I am passionate about talking and writing. Yes I too have witnessed the online destructiveness in Churches, in companies, in school, amongst friends and family. But I disagree somewhat with it having to stay in the current communities. I think we will miss the different communities' views and inputs. 

The Network does have strong rules - yes controlled censorship - which in this case I think is required so we do not spiral into the internet wars.

Some of us are not able to travel - even to our local Church, so using a forum with pen in hand to talk and listen politely may help many of our members.

But hey, we just talked, we do not agree but we talked and listened and were polite to one another as Brothers in Christ should be, as He wants us to be.

Jeffrey Thomson

I think I am with Sean on this one. Jesus, of course, was face-to-face. Not sure what he would do with online conversations. So much is missed when you cannot see or hear the other and have only printed words to go by. More than a few times I have spoken to congregations about how we interpret words, using God's question to Adam as an example.  There are but 4 words: Adam, Where, Are, and You. You can vocalize them in at least 6 different ways and though the words remain the same, the meaning changes with the vocalization. Then add to this the body language.

I have also been part of too many online discussions that were less than respectful and courteous. I seems like the relative anonymity is taken as tacit permission to say whatever one wants. 

Then, again, I just happen to be a very opinionated guy and if I commented on everything I read, I would never leave my computer! :)

That said, I do thrive on a good discussion. I actually toyed with the idea of having a regular group entitled "Let's Talk" where nothing would be out-of-bounds and we would engaged in a respectful and hopefully intelligent discussion of whatever was on people's hearts and minds. Still may do it, but momentarily have set it aside for a group entitled "God Talk: Theology 101" that will introduce interested people to basic theology, theological terms and subjects.

But yes, lets converse,

 

ron vanauken

Hard to have a conversation when leadership will not have conversation with the congregation at all.

Will certainly agree with that statement. Council here did not renew our pastor's call/contract. I suggested that it would be good to do a "post mortem" to ask what we could have done better, how the situation might have turned out differently, what we were meant to learn from the experience. No interest. When Synod made its decision, and with the ordination of new office-bearers coming up, I suggested that it was important that all be aware of the decision and the implication for the covenant of office and that we needed to engage in a discussion. No interest. One individual suggested that we wait 5 years to talk about it.

I should say that when Council terminated the pastor's call/contract, there was a significant portion of the congregation that was unaware (or forgot) that the call was term and that there were specific evaluation criteria. So, in a sense, these people were blindsided. As I was chairing that year, we held a number of "town hall meetings" to listen and respond (confidentiality respected when appropriate) to issues and concerns. I would like to think that this actually contributed to healing/reconciliation of thoughts and opinions. Good listening, however, does not come easily.

Participant

It is the action in this comment that makes me nervous. Not renewing a contract sounds too easy. How old was this Pastor? How long had he been in this location? How long had he been a Pastor? If the rules of his engagement had changed (and that is possible) there could be labour law action that apply. Certainly in Canada this approach would not be simple.  

I just want to be assured that this Pastor was treated fairly regardless of the reason for termination.

That is most unfortunate! Leaders lead, they do not deal with just the easy things, they must also deal with the difficult things, if not then they are simply followers waiting to hear what some other leader is doing.

I'm sorry to hear that is happening at your church. 

 

I would like to discuss with love. I am one of the writers of the minority report. I believe that God loves everyone He created and Jesus walked and talked with all people. He loves each of us where we are. I accept all people, even those I disagree with. However, I am finding that others cannot do that and react with vitriol. That grieves me. Radical hospitality was mentioned on the floor of Synod more than once. I see it as radical hypocrisy. I pray for discussions that reflect God's gracious love and mercy.