This is the time of year when churches have their annual meetings. I got to thinking about what is different about them. I was especially interested in the organizational chart. For churches, the CEO is Jesus Christ, always has been, always will be. We believe He is present in our midst although He is not there in the flesh. We are to look for Christ in each other.
We may use Robert's Rules of Order, although ideally that is so we can maintain an orderly flow rather than to shoot each other down, or try to sideline people when they have a point of view we don't like. If we understand the way our CEO operates we will listen closely to each other, because any one of us may be speaking for the Holy Spirit. There will never be ad hominem arguments. How could there be, if we truly see each other as those loved by Christ?
The Confession of 1967 of the Presbyterian Church, USA, says, "Obedience to Jesus Christ alone identifies the one universal church and supplies the continuity of its tradition." This obedience is the ground of the church's duty and freedom to reform itself in life and doctrine as new occasions in God's providence may demand.
The organizational chart has two main divisions. The church exists for mission and ministry. Mission is commanded by the CEO in Matthew where He said, "Go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." Ministry (that is, caring for those within the church) is commanded to His disciples in the New Testament in John 15:12. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you ... I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last ..."
Whereas most organizational charts have a hierarchical structure, that of the church has a very flat, long line under the CEO because all members are equal.
There is recognition that God owns all the members have, but they are able to make decisions about how they'll spend their money. Most learn that, as their devotion to God grows, so does their desire to share. They want to support causes they believe Christ would endorse.
In reflecting on the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Charles Ringma considers, "For what He said and did has such a ring of truth about it, that it challenges us to leave our mediocrity and embrace His vision of excellence. This vision is none other than the way of servant leadership. In embracing Christ, we must abandon our own way."
Of course no church embodies all of these ideals, but the closer they come, the more we really understand what we are to be about. I hope your church's annual meeting goes well.
The Rev. Dorothy Price Knudson is retired from active ministry in the Presbyterian Church, but preaches regularly at Congregational and Presbyterian churches in Eastern Oregon Presbytery. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.