home

Nary An Unpublished Thought

sermons

archives

 

biography

 

 

January 31, 2008: How Will I Know?

I woke up this morning with the radio playing Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know?" (Yes, that's quite a call-back to start this note, but I thought I would share the joy. It is one of those songs that sticks in your head and you can't shake it, not matter how hard you try...)

Strange as that was, it got me to thinking. I went back and began re-reading the posts I have made regarding the proposed Form of Government (the proposed FoG). As I was going through them, I realized that it has begun to sound like a "one-note-Charlie" performance. So, I decided this morning to take a step back to ask Whitney's more over-arching question, "How Will I Know?"

In other words, anyone can sit back and take potshots at the proposed FoG -- including me. The point of the exercise, however, is to figure out how to discern whether the proposed FoG should be approved and replace what currently exists? How will I know?

Finding imperfections is not the ultimate goal. Some really faithful and smart people worked very hard on this proposal. Their goals are goals I share: a more missional effort by Presbyterians, flexibility and restored responsibility to the presbyteries, a desire to make things easier and simpler. Yet, just because that is true, it does not mean that this proposed FoG should be approved. The question is: will it work?

Second, I do not think I could have written anything better; nor have I drafted a wholesale alternative to the proposal that also is different than what we currently have. Yet, just because that is true, it does not mean that this proposed FoG should be approved. The question is: will it work?

Third, I do not believe that our current Form of Government is perfect. There are several major things I would like to change. Yet, just because that is true, it does not mean that this proposed FoG should be approved. The question is: will it work?

Fourth, the "let's take it out for a spin" approach is not a good option. There are many reasons why people often describe the denomination as an oil tanker. As institutions develop over time, they become more rigid and lose flexibility. However, if you make too quick a turn, you run the risk of cracking the hull or flipping it over and sinking. Sure, there is the argument that the denomination is already taking on water; yet, just because that is true, it does not mean that this proposed FoG should be approved. The question is: will it work?

Again, the question is not "could it work?" Yes, many people have worked hard on this and we would like to think that it could work. In a best case scenario, most things would work. The problem is that we rarely live in a "best case scenario" world. That is why we also have to assess, what could go wrong? Do changes need to be made? Yes. Yet, just because that is true, it does not mean these changes -- in this proposed FoG -- should be approved. The question is: will it work?

Finally, we have to address the question of whether the proposed FoG will make the denomination missional. I question the assumption that any Form of Government will make Presbyterians more missional. Further, I do not believe that the current Form of Government is the major obstacle preventing us from being missional. My impression is that we, the people, are the ones who have prevented ourselves from being missional. For the most part, the Form of Government is a convenient excuse for not doing something we are unwilling to do anyway. (Yes, there are exceptions -- but fewer than you might imagine.) I traveled for a number of years and visited with literally thousands of Presbyterians. I cannot recall a single person every standing up and testifying, "I have shared the gospel because the Form of Government inspired me to do so." The point? If we were to adopt this proposed FoG, the question is: will it work? Will it make us missional?

Thus, the question has to be "will this proposed Form of Government work?" Given our current makeup, given the things that are currently issues among us, will this proposed Form of Government yield an environment of trust, mission, and growth? Again, not "could it?", "should it?", or "it might..."; but will it?

How will I know? The way to know is by tracing through the details of how it will actually function within the life of what already exists. It is folly to try to wish ourselves into a best-case-scenario future that does not exist. Therefore: are you convinced:

That is what would be necessary for this proposed Form of Government to work.

And, if we honestly look at the answer to the question, we might just agree the proposed Form of Government would not work.