Thursday, May 22, 2014

Suspending the Constitution

I pastor University Baptist Church in East Lansing: an established congregation celebrating 50 years of ministry this fall.  While we prepare to look back and celebrate all the Lord has done, we are also becoming a group obeying what the Lord is calling us to do.  Most recently, we were called to suspend the church constitution.

Well-written, outwardly focused and balanced in guiding the church, the constitution finds a fan in me. Our discussions to suspend the constitution began when we saw the disconnect between the church described in the document and the church reading the document.  I celebrated what we were called to do but we had to tell the truth of our inability to complete the constitutional assignment.  We didn't have enough people to fill all of the positions.  2009-2011 were spent in partial fulfillment of the assignment but discovering a resource gave us permission to confess our inadequacy.

Winning on Purpose is a resource we discovered through the CECL Program at the Green Lake Conference Center.  Though we read the resource as a group, I was disturbed by the premise. John Kaiser described an organization far removed from what I found a loving group of people executing.  Changes required in the book were - I thought - too much for the flock to absorb at once. Because however we read the book in community, other voices rang in with a hope for the future.  One was John Powell's.

John, a retired MSU Professor of Psychology, observed a shift in governance while serving on the board of Mission Training International.  The lessons he learned in Colorado, and around the world, were translated into local vernacular. His respect at a local level made consideration of the Winning on Purpose model possible.  In a real sense, John is one of the E.F. Huttons of the congregation.  Over the course of three years, in his eighties, with an ailing wife and a demanding international schedule, John traveled to Green Lake with us, sat in on meetings and helped craft the language of vision for the church.
Because of our work together, the vision for UBC is clearly articulated.  We live to see all peoples of the world know, worship and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Gaining clarity on what we're called to do provides a boldness in obeying the Holy Spirit.  We suspended the constitution, dissolved the Diaconate and entered a season fasting and prayer to discern the members of the Leadership Council.  I now use Winning on Purpose as a leadership manual and the Guiding Principles therein as a guide for accountability.   While we look back and celebrate all the Lord has done, we also look forward to obeying what the Lord is calling us to do. 

Our assignments in the months to come dwarf what we've already done.  I've learned the Lord enjoys bringing us to impossible situations because we're forced to rely on the Holy Spirit.  If God doesn't move in the moments of impossibility, we are sunk.  The beauty is that God has been moving for the last 50 years and continues to move in us today.

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