On Sunday evening we had a really great congregational meeting. A large portion of the meeting was dedicated to talking about how we can best accomplish our three strategic initiatives for 2018-2023:
- We will be a community church for our community.
- We will be a church committed to next generations.
- We will steward our building and property in ways that welcome and serve our community broadly and next generations specifically.
Our conversation, in small and large groups, focused on what updates, adaptations, and potential additions we should focus on in order for our building to be of service to what God is calling us. We then continued with the really hard conversation . . . how much of a financial investment do we think is feasible for our congregation and, of that total investment, how much debt should we be willing to take on.
I won't rehash the numbers here, but it is enough to say that while everyone agreed that some things with our facility should be addressed, once we started talking about money the opinions were radically different. Some envisioned a large project and were willing to tackle the significant funds (and likely debt) necessary to do it. Others had a more cautious approach. But that isn't where the meeting ended.
We finished our discussion by inviting people to share what got them excited when discussing potential building changes and what fears crept up in them when this topic was opened. I believe this was a really helpful time for us. Those who envisioned a big project were able to share the excitement for what that project could do. Even those who totally disagree with their idea could then understand where those people was coming from. Those who want to avoid debt were able to speak about why this was a concern. Those who are fine with debt could understand, even if they didn't share the same view.
The meeting was a reminder of a few things for me:
- We are a diverse congregation. The diversity might not be as visible as it might be in an urban Toronto church, but we have people from a variety of backgrounds, family cultures, and experiences in our congregation.
- This diversity is good . . . even necessary! In 1 Corinthians, Paul celebrates this diversity and points out that we all need each other! The "doers" and "get 'er done" people need cautious people to avoid biting off more than we can chew. The cautious people need the "doers" if we're ever going to get anywhere. (One of the fears was that we'd do lots of talking and then get nothing done!)
- Unity in the body is a primary desire of Jesus and if we move ahead with building things that don't do everything we can to maintain it . . . it bears false witness against God by misrepresenting him to each other and our community. Remember Jesus' prayer, recorded in John 17 - I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
- Being willing to stop trying to push our preferences and truly listen to each other and each other's hearts will be necessary for maintaining unity. It's always good to remember James' words - Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
I don't know where God will lead us in this regard, but I pray that we will work hard to move forward together. We won't always agree, but may we all stay united fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 1:2)