We began our strategic planning discernment by identifying the core values of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan. In our core values statement, partnership leads the way, is a given. "As partners in Christ service, we..." "We," not "I," but "we." We are not private Christians. That's anathema to our self understanding. In our baptism we are welcomed into the community of the church, made part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). We Presbyterians prize our connectional nature. No one gets ordained and installed to an ordered ministry in our wing of the church as deacon, elder or minister of the word and sacrament without answering the questions, "Will you be a friend among your colleagues in ministry, working with them...," and "Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love?" If the prescribed liturgy for such rites in our Book of Common Worship are used, Paul's words to the church in Corinth are spoken as liturgy, "There are a variety of gifts, but it is the same Spirit who gives them. There are different ways of serving God, but it is the same Lord who is served, God works through each person in a unique way, but it is God's purpose that is accomplished. To each is given a gift of the Spirit to be used for the common good. Together we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it" (1 Cor. 12:4-7, 27). Each of us is a unique individual, a special creation by God, and we are each part of something larger than ourselves, the Church of Jesus Christ, partners in Christ's service.
However, partnership is aspirational. In practice, how are we doing with that? Not too well. The threads of partnership have worn pretty thin. It's a cultural thing. Individualism reigns. Consumers get it their way. Life is full and exhausting. Time is precious. Energy, a scarce commodity, must be focused. Actions prioritized. Congregational life suffers. Presbytery life, what's that? Hardly registers.
Yet, "as partners in Christ's service, we..." have this ministry and life together. What's that gonna look like? As I work with a team on discerning what God is calling us to, everything begins with what it means to be partners. What will we covenant to do together? The first goal we identified is to build our relationships. In a marriage, that often begins by sitting down at the dining room table with calendars, communication, getting on the same page, sharing stories how the day went.
There is a lot we can do to communicate better. We've never had so many platforms to do so. We can and will do better. But communication is also a two way dynamic. There's a speaker and the listener, the writer and the reader. I write these blogs. The Presbytery office sends out e-bulletins to 406 persons who subscribe to receive them. That's 31.5% of the 12,290 members of the congregations in our Presbytery. On average, 40% of the 31.5% open them. Who knows how many read them. Or how many have read this far in this blog. That's where we are. We build from where we presently are.
As we discern and pull together a strategic ministry plan, it is becoming ever more evident that God is calling us to begin with who we are--partners in Christ's service. What does that partnership look like in 2018? How can you be a better partner?
Yours in Christ,