We had ten proposed actions for the Board of Directors and the district president to execute, voted on and passed at the Northern Illinois District (NID) Convention. For some of those overtures, where simple bylaws changes, there was not much to see. One created a way to bolster a district ministry, which supports pro-life options. The rest of the proposals were all about maintaining the institution.
I didn’t pay enough attention when I was a parish pastor to my district and the critical decisions we voted on at the convention. Shame on me for that past failure and I apologize to all the missional leaders I let down by my lack of attention. What I saw at our convention was a church suffering from symptoms of anxiety. What anxiety does in your life is leads you to search for certainty. You want to do everything possible to control the environment around you. At our NID convention, we had overtures designed to control a church faced with an uncertain future. George Muller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” To ease our mind, we passed resolutions to preserve control of an idea of what we believe the church should be to make us feel secure. It was all about survival, but my question is, “What are we preserving?” I know many think we are saving the church itself, its rich history and doctrine. Are we really? And If so, who are we going to pass it on to, who will hear our message? As less and less European immigrants come to the country, where is our real mission field?
I get that we want to keep the truth of God’s Word at the heart of our church body, and rightly so, it is the foundation of our faith, but you can’t do that with the law. Traditions alone are not enough. We can’t circle the wagons and wait for the world around us to come back home to the church. The way we pass on the church we so dearly love is by professing that truth to a brand new, outside of God’s grace people group.
I am struck by the words of Jeremiah, “Happy are those who trust in the Lord, who rely on the Lord. They will be like trees planted by the streams, whose roots reach down to the water. They won’t fear drought when it comes; their leaves will remain green. They won’t be stressed in the time of drought or fail to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (CEB)
Imagine if we put our full energy and the congregational gifts, of time, talent, and treasure into gathering together and figuring out ways to better reach the unconnected in our community. Instead, I fear we are trying to control a declining institution by fear and legal maneuvering in a convention. The institution doesn’t have to decline. There are people outside of our church buildings who have not yet been introduced to the Savior we love. Our gospel is still compelling. Our Savior still holds salvation and forgiveness in His wings. The harvest is even more plentiful.
In the end, I realize the reason I never cared about convention results was I cared more deeply for the mother in my school whose child missed significant amounts of school because mom was addicted again to drugs. I am not implying others don’t, nor is this post meant to condemn anyone. I wish we could work together for the betterment God’s kingdom. Someday, maybe we can all walk away from a church convention feeling, “Wow, God has given us a clear missional direction, let’s go after it.” Instead, after this convention, many left shaking their heads feeling like they were hit by a truck and asking, “what just happened.” I pray we can come together, talk together, seek God’s plan for our church body together and then go after the ones outside of God’s grace TOGETHER! We are so much stronger when we do what God has called us to do…TOGETHER!
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