Solving the Puzzle of God’s Will for Your Church (When My Piece Is Not Critical)

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

My girls grew up with Disney.  Being girls, it was always the Disney heroines which had their attention: Belle, Ariel, Jasmyn, Mulan, and of course, Cinderella and Snow White.  But it was when we started putting Disney character puzzles together that I made an important discovery: with the obvious exception of the “ethnic” differences, all the princesses’ faces looked the same.  So if you are putting together a puzzle and you have the piece that shows just the face, it doesn’t tell you much about which puzzle you have.  Is it Cinderella or Aurora?  Is it Belle or Ariel?  No way to tell…not without the other pieces.


Isn’t that always the case with puzzles?  There are some pieces which end up being critical to finding out what the picture is and then there are pieces which do not end up helping that much, like the piece at the very bottom right hand corner that has the words “Milton Bradley” on it…doesn’t really tell us much about the picture.

Putting together the puzzle which is God’s will for your church on a given issue is like that.  We all bring a piece to the table.  We would each like to think that our particular piece is critical to this picture, that it will determine the big picture for the whole church.  We each examine our individual piece and begin extrapolating and speculating about what the big picture must surely be: “I have the most important piece, the one that tells the entire story…this must be a picture of Milton Bradley!” Then, when we begin looking at all the other pieces and see how far off our own piece is from the big picture, we are frustrated, embarrassed, and humiliated all at the same time.

Here is the bottom line truth: sometimes my particular puzzle piece on a given issue may be critical sometimes, and sometimes…not so much.  And the lesson here is… I have to learn to be o.k. with that.  In many cases of conflicted congregations, I have observed that some of us are just not o.k. with that reality.  Some of us have grown accustomed to always having a critical piece to the puzzle, and we just cannot get our brains wrapped around the fact that, in this case, we do not.  We look at our puzzle piece over and over again and we simply cannot accept the fact that the picture  is NOT a picture of Milton Bradley.  We begin to feel marginalized, disrespected, overlooked and in some cases, “otherized”.

Being a leader, i.e., a person of influence in a congregation, means demonstrating an ability to accept this difficult reality on any given issue.  If I am an older, more traditional leader in the church, it may mean coming to realize that God really is ushering in a change, and I need to get used to that.  If I am a younger, more charismatic but less experienced leader in the church, it may mean that I need to slow down and wait for God’s timing on the “change” I believe is coming.  But whoever I am, and whatever my personal read may be on the situation, I must demonstrate a willingness to trust God to speak through His people and I must use my influence to insist upon and defend a consensus-building process designed to bring all the puzzle pieces to the table and to get an honest read of what the big picture really is.

That is what is required of a church seeking God’s will together.  It is hard work and often painful.  Putting these puzzles together is not for wimps!

There is at least one more important question this whole puzzle metaphor raises: what about pastoral authority…how does this metaphor account for the role of the pastor in discerning God’s will for a church? That question is so important, it warrants a whole separate post, don’t you think?  Stay tuned!

© Blake Coffee

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One response to “Solving the Puzzle of God’s Will for Your Church (When My Piece Is Not Critical)”

  1. […] discern what God desires, where is pastoral authority in that process?  If you will recall this post, we said that each of us sometimes has a puzzle piece which is simply not critical to the picture, […]