……at sea because people assumed things. It was assumed the boat would go in a certain direction and therefore it would avoid the rocks nearby. It was assumed that the ship would be strong enough to withstand the storm ahead. Such assumptions and many more can lead to all kinds of disastrous consequences if they prove to be false. Jack Phillips, the wireless operator on the Titanic famously assumed that a message from another ship in the area that there were icebergs around was unimportant. He found the message bothersome because he was dealing with other messages.
Furthermore on a lesser scale relationships can be damaged through assumptions being made. A married couple might make assumptions about how each is spending their money. If this results in an overspend or a resentment of how the money has been spent, the marriage can be harmed. And when this is taken into relationships in an organisation then all kinds of difficulties can arise. That organisation is then left functioning in a sub-optimal way because assumptions were made which led to fractured relationships. So in a church people assume others will do a certain activity without checking. As a result the whole undertaking can be messed up and fall-outs result.
In all this two things are vital:
Examination: Try and avoid making assumptions. Make sure that you examine the whole situation and determine what is the appropriate action to take. Don’t just assume things. There are times when assumptions have to be made, but the implications of those assumptions need to be considered. Assumptions can be particularly dangerous when you assume a certain course of action will lead to a certain outcome without giving full consideration to whether that is reasonable or not. In case of any doubt then be careful to check whether you have assumed correctly or not. Unnecessary assumptions are sometimes made through laziness.. This is unacceptable; do the necessary work so as to limit assumptions.
Communication: Fully communicate what assumptions you are making so that all involved know what you are assuming in a situation. It is good to be overly cautious as well. You may assume that someone will act in a certain way, but it is always best to check your assumption. Failure to do this may be disastrous if the person sees another course as appropriate. And continually be checking if your assumptions are correct so that matters can move forward in a harmonious fashion and there are no misunderstandings
In all this it is better to be safe than sorry. And it is better to over-communicate than under-communicate.
It is interesting to observe how the Conservative party during this election campaign has brought forth policies which were an essential a part of the manifesto of the Labour party at the 2015 election. I heard this policy on worker’s rights, for example, being referred to as an Ed Milliband policy. This also applies to the cap on energy bills which Mrs May announced.
So what is going on here? The Labour party has, no doubt, moved to the left in terms of ideology and policy. The Conservatives are therefore seeking to fill the vacuum. This is an observation on where the parties are at.
This manoeuvring of the Conservative party is symptomatic of how political parties operate on the basis of expediency now. The historic predisposition to adopt policies that were based on principle has been substantially diminished. A prevailing ideology in a political party is not totally lost, but it holds less sway than it used to. Pragmatism now predominates.
A slightly different slant on this issue is that populism now trumps over principle. In the recent local election on May 4th it was interesting to hear those who had been victorious declaring how “they had listened to the people”. It is, of course, good to listen to people and understand where they are at. But I just got the sense that populism prevailed over any thought of acting upon principle.
All this leads me on to a niggling worry that it is no longer what is right and wrong which drives how we act as Christians individually and in church. So easily it can be what makes us popular which determines the course of action we take. This type of thinking can insidiously seep into the church from the world around. Truly, it is vital that we talk to people and seek to understand where they are but it must be principle always which drives us.
This is a great post from Tim Challies. It makes us think about our commitment to church.
We at Feltham require vows to be taken upon becoming a member of the church. This is done to seek to give some gravity to the taking on of membership. Tim Challies in this post shows how we need to fulfill our commitment to each other in membership.
When you are called to be an elder you are called to a certain church to exercise that responsibility. An “elder” who is not an elder of a church is not an elder. I make this assertion because eldership only functions in the context of an individual church. But when an elder is considered as an elder in a church how much of that church are they responsible for? Part of Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians elders was for them to Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Acts 20:28a). They were all overseers to all the flock.
This reminds me of the importance of realising that when I was recognised as an elder of Feltham Evangelical Church I took on overseership of all the flock. I have a responsibility for all the flock. By implication it means as well that, under God I have responsibility for all of the church. When I become an elder of a church I cannot say that I only have responsibility for this part or that part. I have to answer to God for the whole church.
There are two important caveats here:-
- For practical management of a church situation it is reasonable to allocate responsibility of shepherding different ones among the leaders. Different elders have responsibility to particularly shepherd certain sheep. However, this does not take away from the ultimate responsibility of all the elders all the sheep. Day to day engagement is with one or some of the elders. Overall responsibility is with all of the elders.
- In a similar way responsibility for the activities and ministries in the church may be delegated to different elders of the church. But overall there is collective engagement with every ministry.
This all means that we stand together as elders. Ultimately nothing is carried individually by one of the elders; all is shared and carried by everyone.
I am thinking here of the raising up of those to bring God’s Word among God’s people. There are two models I have personally experienced.
The Brethren Model: People are raised up in the local church and trained and equipped. But then the main place for the function of their gift is in other assemblies; NOT in the local church.
The Independent Church Model: Those who are seen as having a suitable preaching gifting are given some opportunity in the church. However, their training is done elsewhere at a seminary or Bible college. They then go to exercise ministry in a church which is not their home church. In such a model the “pastor” of the church occupies his position until, he decides to leave, retires or dies. Up until such a time he does at least 75% of the preaching in the church.
Both models appear to me to have limitations according to the Bible model. It seems to me that gift should be raised up in a local church with the view that it is primarily used in that church. And training and equipping is focussed in the church.
It was interesting thereby to listen to this interview with Terry Virgo. One striking aspect of this interview was him speaking about his relentless determination to see suitably gifted men raised up, mentored, trained and released into the local church. In his ministry it seemed he almost was setting himself towards becoming redundant. This would happen through other preachers being raised up in the local church who would be preaching in that church.
Inherent in this approach is the expectation of planting churches from such a church. This could happen through the superfluity of the gift in that church flowing over to being used in another new church.
There seems to be much to recommend this.
N.B. The interview is well worth listening to for much wisdom on church life.
Why bother going along to the meetings which are scheduled in your church. I am talking about the meetings for prayer, praise, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, preaching and teaching and fellowship. Why should you bother about going to these times? What should motivate you? When we start to think of these arrangemenst as times when the family meet together then we are immediately seeing why we should be there.
When you have become a member of a church you have committed yourself to that representation of the family of God. That family has certain times when they come together. It is inherent in being a church, that we must have times together as a congregation. If this is not the case then any concept of us being a group together for the Lord is lost. Those times are when we come together as family; the church gathers as a family. The family gathers and if any of the family are not there then it is felt. Absence of a family member matters to the rest of the family and that its is how it should be. After all we now belong to one another; Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it ( 1 Cor. 12:27) is the image Paul uses to convey the bond we have to each other.
So when the church meets we meet as brothers and sisters before our Father, drawn together by the Spirit of God to glorify the Son of God. Every church meeting is not just a church meeting, it is a family affair. It is the family meeting together. And I as a brother in the family should expect to be there when the family gathers.
That is particularly the case when I have responsibility for the family as an elder in the church. I will come because I want to know that all is well with the family. I will come wanting to see that the family gatherings are special for us all as we come together.
N.B I have dealt with the issue of the family being properly fed here
We all live as a part of different institutions. Families, schools, offices, factories, churches, social clubs are all institutions of one flavour or another. It is interesting to ponder upon what sort of culture pertains in the institutions I am a part of. This can be looked at in different ways, but one way which is quite reflective of the state of the institution is to consider whether there is a culture of blame or culture of apologising.
Things go wrong in all institutions but what is the default response when there is failure. The initial response is either to seek out who can be blamed for what has gone wrong or to seek to apologise for any part I have played in the failure. A blame culture produces a negative interaction between people and destroys morale. Whereas an apologising culture creates a sense of warmth and generosity among the people.
You can spot it in a marriage. Ponder upon how you respond when something happens between you and your spouse. Do you rush to blame or apologise? If something spills over on the cooker do you seek to blame your spouse for letting it happen or do you apologise for disturbing him/her by taking them unnecessarily out of the kitchen. You see it in a football match. When a pass is misplaced does the person apologise for mis-directing it or blame the other person for not running in the right direction?
When you perceive that a blame culture has taken hold in an institution then all does not augur well. The prospect is for a broken marriage, a fractious office, an unhappy church and an unsuccessful sports team. Whereas the reverse is very much the case when you have an apologising culture; then you will see strong marriages, healthy families and churches that are so keen to move forward well.
It is interesting to observe that the tendency to a blame culture set in right at the beginning of the history of fallen humanity where the man blamed the women and the woman blamed the serpent (see Gen. 3:12). The blame culture is the culture of the world. An apologising culture is a culture of grace. It is a culture of taking the lowly place. Through it we realise we are sinners with a capacity to do wrong and sadly we really do, do wrong. And when we know we have done wrong we apologise.
So what kind of culture am I contributing to in the institutions of which I am a part?