Monday night was a monumental night, or at least it could have been. Time will tell. The deacons of the Columbus Church of Christ (myself included) met with the evangelist to discuss the state of the church and its future direction. Decisions were made that will effect the lives of many here.
Last week the deacons had met for only the second time since our appointment back in November of last year. Prompted, at least for me, in part by the resignation of one of our own and my personal feelings about that, we got together to talk. No real agenda was put forth ahead of time, but it seemed we all had much on our hearts. At the forefront of each of our minds were the spiritual health of the church and the shallowness of the relationships between the members.
At the end of the night, we had decided that we could no longer sit on our hands and watch. We, along with the evangelist and campus minister, were the appointed leaders of the church. If we did not act, who would? We decided that we needed to take our place as leaders beside the ministers and work side by side with them. We would not meekly ask to be included, nor would we arrogantly demand to have our say. Rather we would, as leaders approved by the congregation last fall, assume the place we should have from the start. It was time that the church had a cohesive leadership team.
In our ICOC family of churches, our pattern had been one of top down, hierarchical leadership. There was one man at the top of the church with several levels of leaders under him. Frankly, in my view it has shown itself to be a failure, but not because of the caliber of men placed in leadership. For the most part they have been spiritual men with great hearts. No, it has failed, I believe, because God did not design man to carry such a burden. Moses learned it from his father in law in Exodus 18, the NT speaks of a variety of leadership positions, each with it’s own focus and expertise in Ephesians 4, implying that it requires a diverse group of leaders for a church to reach maturity. Even through the upheaval and awakening of the last year, the Columbus COC was still effectively operating under that old paradigm, with the evangelist in the position of making the decisions. He’s a good man, but it is not right for him to carry that burden alone nor is it good for the church to be limited to his perspective. It was time for a change.
So it was with a little trepidation that I approached Monday night. Somehow, I had been appointed spokesperson for the group (though it would not be long before the others spoke up). I feared that my words would either be too soft or be taken as an attack on his character or abilities. I prayed a lot about it before the time came.
When it did, frankly it was a bit anticlimactic. He was very open to the idea, almost relieved. He expressed that he’s felt quite alone, out there making decisions by himself. He’s longed for advisors. He was eager to work as a team, even saying that he considered himself no more than a deacon with a focus on preaching and evangelizing, much as the rest of us have our own focus on the youth, campus, administration and the poor. As far as he was concerned, he indicated, we stood on equal footing.
We left that night, adn while I felt that we were not yet completely unified, we were committed to becoming so. We acknowledged there is much to talk about and decide and much work to be done. First on our hearts, however, were the people of the church, their well being and their relationships. We made the following commitments:
- We committed to meeting every other week.
- We committed to going out in pairs and meeting with each and every member of the church to talk to them about their faith, our church and how they’re doing. We would do little talking and a lot of listening.
- We committed to making a point to talk to each other man in the group at least once a week, to deepen our relationship and build our unity.
As we left there was a feeling expressed that this could be the beginning of a new era in our fellowship, a turning point if you will. Perhaps it will amount to nothing, most, if not all, of that depends on our follow through. As of this moment I am cautiously optimistic, with the emphasis on optimistic. Honestly, it the most optimistic I’ve felt about the church in a while. May God grant us the strength and courage to follow through with what we’ve begun. He has placed His children in our hands. You might say that as leaders we are in some ways God’s teachers, babysitters and daycare workers. “These are my children.” He says, “Could you care for them and make sure that they get home safely?” It’s a humbling responsibility when you look at it that way.