n the weeks and months to come we will likely have to make some pretty important decisions here at Elgin FCC. For a long time now we have been talking about major renovations to our building. The time is coming when we need to decide to do it, and figure out how to do it, or nix the whole idea.
I am sure we will gather as much information as we possibly can. We will consult with experts to answer our questions. We will discuss with one another the pros and cons of various plans. And, finally, a congregational vote will be taken and a decision will be made.
Every other church I have ever known has always followed the procedure just outlined. And there is nothing wrong with it. In a democratic society like ours, and in a church which practices congregational polity, such a process seems like second nature.
But here is my question: Where is God in all of this?
The procedure outlined above is not only followed by every church I know, but is also followed by every club, civic organization, social institution, and governmental agency. In one way or another they all follow the same modus operandi when making a decision: gather information, consult the experts, discuss the issues, take a vote.
That's fine if the church is merely one more institution in society - on the same level as the local hospital board or the Rotary Club. But if the church is the body of Christ called out of this world by the incredible grace of God - with a different perspective on this world, and a different set of values - then maybe the world's approach to decision making will not take us where we need to go.
Specifically, what am I asking you and myself to do? Here are two radical ideas:
Pray. This is more than the perfunctory prayer with which we open committee meetings. I am talking about seriously talking with God about what God wants us to do. Instead of consulting the experts, why not consult God? Is that naïve? In the eyes of the world it is, but the church I see in the New Testament fervently sought the will of God before tackling any endeavor, and, it seems to me, they accomplished nothing less than turning their world upside down.
Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in your Christian sisters and brothers. When we have strong feelings about an issue our interaction is usually an attempt to rally those who feel the same way we do, and try to convince others to join us. Do we ever listen, really listen, to one another? Does it ever occur to us that the voice of God might be speaking through someone else?
"A 'majority rules' way of thinking," says Martin Copenhaver, "is what happens when we take God out of the congregational process." Let's not get so caught up in finances, and procedures, and information that we forget to wait upon the Lord.