Our Presbytery examines new pastors – both the almost-ordained and the already-ordained-and-moving-into-our-Presbytery pastor’s- by meeting with them as a team of 4-6 people who are ruling and/or teaching elders. It’s one of my favorite church responsibilities.
Once upon a time, we asked those coming into our Presbytery to “defend” their statements of faith and/or speak to their call to professional ministry. Today, 4-6 of us meet with them to have conversations about sin and resurrection and God’s reign and the meaning of life. It’s a sublime experience.
I believe we experience church in conversations.
Here’s a crazy God Thing. As we conversed with three people who will soon be our colleagues, I literally had intimate connections with each one, discovered only after intentional conversations with them:
- One is both a social worker and a pastor who – unknowingly – reminded me of those days before seminary when I was a social worker wondering why I felt like a pastor to my clients.
- One mentioned that her mom died in 1987 which is the same year my own mom died.
- One mentioned her children who are the same line-up and birth order as my own.
Ordinary connections, but connections nevertheless.
For hundreds of years, we have been the church by sitting alongside each other in pews on Sunday mornings and it’s been quite possible that we have worshiped for decades without ever having a conversation about our kids or our jobs or our hopes.
We cannot be the church unless we know each other beyond the pew-sitting.
Imagine a Christian community in which friends share their theological quandaries and questions. When we talk about our doubts and joys and assurances, we find ourselves in a community that Changes the World.
That’s the kind of church I’m talking about.
Want specific ideas to get started this fall?
- Plan Theology on Tap or God Talk or Faith on Tap events instead of classes set up to have one smart person lecture everybody else. (Everyone goes home smarter, perhaps, but no connections have been made except to the lecturer.)
- Have youth members interview the oldest members in pairs, and then invite the oldest members to interview the youth. Be intentional about why this is happening (i.e. to get to know each other; not to judge or criticize.) Cap it off with a snack together.
- Pause in the middle of a sermon to invite people to answer a question you pose by talking with those around them. Note: some will hate this and believe it’s not really worship. Have a teaching moment (i.e. “It’s still worship.”)