The Main Thing…the Only Thing

If we feed people spiritually, all the true institutional needs of a congregation will be taken care of.

I think the corollary is also true: congregations can organize, plan, arrange, recruit, announce and invite folks to all types of things, but if the deep spiritual needs of women and men, girls and boys, are not addressed, the institutional needs of any congregation will resemble a parched desert.

There is a lot of good material about how to “worship and work” together in a church. However, in my experience, the practice of this rarely questions the basic assumptions that inform most every kind of meeting – from PTA, to homeowner’s associations, to civic meetings…to church board meetings. Yes, there is “opening devotions” or a “pause for prayer” but rarely is there “a meeting revolution” that absolutely privileges funding the theological imagination of a church board above every other task before it.

“But when will we get to the business?” one church board once asked me. Another sounded equally urgent: “let’s save the contemplation for when we’ve finished the things we have to get to.” I don’t take for granted this feeling of the weight of responsibility. But here’s the thing: a lot of time at church board meetings spent in Bible study, prayer, and robust discussion of an article about some aspect of ministry (one of my all-time favorites: David Lose’s multi-part consideration on how a church is (and is not) like an Apple store) is not wasting time and it’s sure not diverting from the “business” of the church.

Church boards are filled with wonderful, dedicated, conscientious and responsible members who will (almost) always go the extra mile to make sure work gets done. What we need—what congregations need and what church boards need—is to go deep. To think imaginatively about God’s counter-cultural “rules of the road.” That will give all of us the foundation to follow and obey God’s audacious claims about life, love, grace, and justice.

Here’s the thing: if church feels like the rest of our lives—meetings, tasks, to do lists—then what do we need church for? If we feed people spiritually, all the true institutional needs of a congregation will be taken care of.