Question: "I'm a member of a branch church where some members look at outreach efforts as human solutions, not spiritual solutions. This opinion tends to keep other members from pursuing these opportunities. How can we move beyond this church gridlock?"
RESPONSE 1: LINDSEY BIGGS
One of the most valuable things about church is the opportunity to share our unique gifts and talents with one another as a membership and congregation. Church brings together such a diverse group of people from various backgrounds. Each member and participant has something unique to offer – a unique light they can shine. Some feel called to teach Sunday School, while others may want to engage in community service activities, while some others may simply want to attend church services. The inspiration that leads each church member how to express church is unique and it should be nurtured, not stifled.
Paul wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:4-7, NRSV).
I love how Paul points how the gifts we each have all come from one God. This signifies that there must be unity within our unique gifts and talents. Even though we may feel called to express church differently than someone else, we can still be so grateful for each individual and the common good to which they are contributing. This enables us all to feel valued, loved and supported as church members. And this appreciation for one another enables us to be receptive to God moving us forward.
RESPONSE 2: LOIS HERR
Think what a blessing it would be to our world at this very moment to be free of gridlock. Have we really lost, as a society and as a world, the ability to hear God’s gracious voice moving each of us forward in creative unifying ways, instead stuck in the tired old “them and us?”The discipline of our “distinctly democratic” (see the Church Manual, p. 74 ) branch churches demands not only that we do the work of Christianity, as exemplified by Jesus--in preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, cleansing the leper, and raising the dead--but that our work together has the same radical standard of Scientific Christian practice. We are caused to contribute to the mental atmosphere of society by our collective demonstration of church.
Some years ago, when my job involved reporting directly to the Board of Directors of a non-profit, there was nothing but division in the governance of the organization. This resulted in stagnation and inaction. I so wanted the organization to go farther and faster. But my approach to progress was way too personal and mortal. A good friend gave me one sentence that revolutionized my frustrated, sometimes self-righteous approach: “Unity is not many coming together to be one, it is One (God) expressing Himself as All.”
Suddenly I had a new approach. With this view, we were all “on the same side.” Instead of revving up my engines to come up with just the right arguments for why we should do something or other, and despairingly listening to all the counter-arguments as to why all of that was impossible, I earnestly prayed to know how that One was expressing Himself as All. That caused me to properly heed the commandment “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” I could see there was no truly righteous justification for the “them and us” view. Instead there was plenty of room for expectancy of good, for consistently identifying “the others” as God’s children, and eventually for a hard-won humble willingness not to be in charge. Others were praying, too. And we saw the most wonderful transformation of the organization. Some false representations that had ignorantly been permitted to stand as the Gospel truth were seen and removed. We moved past gridlock. I believe our organization made a stronger contribution not only in fulfilling its mission, but in its restored robust practice of Scientific Christianity. This was a testament to unity being “God expressing Himself as All.” Perhaps this idea sheds some further light on this vital question of moving forward.