Making Our Words Count

1 09 2009

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

“After much discussion…” Those are the words we use when we’re writing minutes of a business meeting and there was a lot of discussion but not much said.  When we write, “after much discussion…” it means there were plenty of folks who had something to say on the subject, but it wasn’t important enough to quote any of it here in these minutes.  All that matters for posterity’s sake is…and then we put the results of the vote.  From time to time, a comment is made that is important enough to put in the minutes, and we do so.  But otherwise, we just write, “after much discussion…”.

The kinds of comments which end up being represented by “after much discussion…” are many.  Some of them are way off the subject, irrelevant remarks which do not further the decision-making process at all.  Some of them are personal in nature…too personal to memorialize forever in the meeting minutes.  Some of them are nothing more than emotional venting…perhaps important for a particular person’s process but not at all helpful for the entire group.  But all of them have one thing in common: From a long-term perspective of knowing how we came to this decision, they were not important.

In my experience dealing with conflicted congregations, We are not doing a very good job of teaching our churches a decision-making process which honors the Lord.  Specifically, when it comes to discerning together what the Head of the church (Jesus) is calling us to do, we do not get very high scores in terms of the processes we use.  Most often, the vast majority of the words we use in staff meetings, committee meetings and business meetings fall into the “after much discussion…” category.

I’m proposing a new mandate to the church in America: fix our decision-making process so that the words we use actually count for something eternal.

Want to know something funny?  When documenting church business meetings, we’ve been using the term “after much discussion…” for 2000 years, since the very beginning of the New Testament church.  Acts 15 is about as close to “meeting minutes” from the New Testament church as you will ever find.  For our purposes here, the issue is irrelevant (o.k., for the pharisees among you, the issue was circumcision…but I’m not using that as a tag in this post).  It is the process demonstrated in the Jerusalem Council which is so enlightening.

It all started with a missions report from Paul and Barnabas to the whole church.  A troublesome issue was raised in that report and the church leaders had a special called meeting to deal with it.  In the report (the minutes) from that meeting, guess what the first three words are (Acts 15:7)?  You got it: “After much discussion…”.  We don’t know what all was included in that discussion, but we know it wasn’t deemed worthy of scripture.  But what happened next WAS…

Peter stood and reminded the leaders how God had spoken to him through his personal prayer time (see Acts 10).  Paul & Barnabas stood and gave testimony about how God had worked through the circumstances of their ministry.  Pastor James (the brother of Jesus) stood and shared scripture which seemed to bear upon the subject.  All of these remarks made it into the minutes for posterity’s sake.  And all of them had one thing in common: they all dealt with what God was doing or saying, as opposed to what people were doing or saying.  They all touched directly on the question of what God was about.

I think that is what is often missing in our decision-making process in the church.  We talk a lot about what we want and what we prefer and what young families want and what lost people need and what the teenagers are doing, etc.  But if we want to know what God desires, we should be focused on what He is doing and saying.  That should be what we’re talking about.

So, what about it?  Are you in on the new mandate?  Will you commit to making your words at your next church meeting worthy of putting in the minutes, or will your words fall under the dreaded “After much discussion, blah, blah, blah…”?

© Blake Coffee

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2 responses

1 09 2009
mom2olivia

Great Post Blake, funny I just checked my RSS and saw this. Earlier today I too wrote a similar post on our thoughts and what comes out of our hearts and mouths. Hope your doing well. Blessings, Robin

2 09 2009
Nathan

Bullseye Blake;

The key is that the early church was seriously interested in and dedicated to what God was doing. These days I’m not sure that’s where most folks are starting from. The desire to control and influence the groups we are a part of is a very strong fleshly urge. It would definitely be better to outlaw useless blather, but you have to get people to recognize what that is first.

Yes, I think you’re on to something there.

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