Monday, February 21, 2011

Adding Life to the Annual Church Meeting!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. (Romans 15:13-14)

Sunday, driving up to church in the cool of the morning, the twin towers of mulch from last week's pre-construction work steamed like active volcanoes waiting to erupt. In a way they are, because they represent the amazing sense of energy and power that's building around here. Even our annual church meeting served as a testimony to God's awesome work amongst us.

Yes, I'm writing about our "Church Annual Meeting" - if you can believe it! I mean, who in their right  mind would consider inflicting such tedious content on innocent Internet blog readers?

I'm glad you asked. First, I'm in my "write" mind, and my write mind tells me there's a story here. Second, something happened that I - in my Preacher's Husband perspective - see as HUGE, and most certainly worth talking about on a Monday morning.
  • Annual meetings in the Presbyterian Church (USA) are held to fulfill a requirement in the denomination's book of order. At the beginning of the year, a booklet is prepared containing written reports from the pastors, the church staff and the various ministry teams, summarizing their work during the previous year. The publication includes tables, statistics, accountings, exact detail of monies received and spent. This detailed information is passed out a couple of weeks ahead of time. Then the church meets to hear the reports and vote on certain items. Blah, blah, blah....
This can all be exceedingly tedious. And - ask your Presbyterian friends - such a meeting typically is.

But - and this is why I'm writing this post - I noticed something wonderful yesterday. We met in the fellowship hall for lunch, where the food was prepared and served by our elders - servant leaders every one. Then, and this was - as Rebekah would say - "Chilly-bump-ish", every ministry-team chair who stood up to speak ended up sharing a testimony.

In each and every instance the "report" - carefully prepared to meet standards of order - morphed into a testimony of God's grace and love-charged initiative amongst us:
  • "You'd think in these difficult economic times," our mission elder began, "that giving would be down. But, once again and in character, this congregation has responded with generosity and love...." 
  • "I'm so grateful to be a part of this church," our music director said. "My colleagues in other churches talk about reduced budgets and slashed positions and declining ministry; at First Presbyterian it's just the opposite..."
  • "Thank you from the bottom my heart for allowing me the privilege of serving you," the member-care elder said. 
  • "I'm very proud," our elder for stewardship said, "of the ministry work this church accomplishes in God's name..."
  • Personnel Chair Lee said this: "With 15 paid staff positions FPCBrandon is now larger than 75% of the businesses in the USA. I knew the work would be valuable, but I assumed personnel would not be one of the more exciting, miracle-filled ministries... I was wrong... I'd like to thank out entire staff for making this a miracle-filled and exciting year."
... And so it went, from ministry team to ministry team, this steady stream of witness to power and grace via the Gospel of Love. Instead of a tedious business meeting, the event was a shot in the arm and an affirmation of life.

The visioning team had the last word, bubbling with excitement because construction is well under way and we have the piles of debris and mulched trees to prove it. They just can't hold themselves in, and it's so cool to see them bursting with hope and promise for the future.
The Preacher puts it this way when she talks about the "So What?" of ministry. "There is so much activity that goes in to making a church 'tick'. But I don't want anyone preparing food for the hungry, or visiting shut-ins, or cleaning out the gutters, or mowing the grass, or tutoring children at the elementary school, or polishing the furniture in the sanctuary, or teaching Sunday-school, or folding bulletins, or serving at I-Am-Hope Cafe, or singing in the choir, or organizing a mission trip to Central America, or building a Habitat house, or even handing out a cup of coffee to a homeless person... unless it comes out of hearts full with love for Jesus."

Our Annual Church Meeting - yawn - turned out to be a "GO CHURCH!" party - because we are a "Go With Jesus" congregation!! It's the only recipe for ministry that really matters.


1 comment:

  1. Yeah God for what he is doing at your church! I too have been apart of "business" meetings that are more celebration than droll requirement. It does take some intentionality, but mostly it has to do with releasing presenters to tell the good news of what God is doing. Even if the circumstances are hard, many bring the same attitude they do to worship; faith, hope, and love. And it can make all the difference.