I had a fascinating conversation with a commissioner of presbytery the other night. I noticed how for decades she had been committed to the work of the wider church, so I wanted to ask her “Why?” After dinner she told me, “There are things in life that you just can’t Google.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, so I asked her to explain. She said, “Well, you know how when you’re shopping online and you want to know if the product is worth buying, you read the reviews?” I said, “Uh, sure,” still wondering where she was headed. She asked me, “How do you know you can trust the reviews are right for you?”
I responded, “Well, I just read a bunch of them and try to figure it out. Law of averages, you know.”
She said, “That’s right. That’s what most people do, and that’s as far as they can go. But think about it. If you really want to know if something is right for you, it is far better to talk with your friends about it, or with someone who knows you and cares about you. More than that, someone who knows what you care about—your values. If you’re shopping for something really important, like a surgeon for an upcoming surgery, you don’t just want to read a bunch of reviews. You want to talk to a person who knows what you are going through, but most importantly, cares about you. That’s what a presbytery is for congregations.”
As the evening went on, I teased out her comments in my mind. I listened to the debates at the business meeting with one ear and heard her comments in the other. I thought about how true they were in other contexts, like my own family.
I’m not saying this to brag; it’s just true. I’m abundantly blessed—some would call it privileged—to have brothers and sisters who are so variously talented. When I need medical advice, I go to my sister or brother who are surgeons. When I need counsel about a legal matter, I call my oldest brother who is an expert in transactional and securities law. When I have questions about real estate or investments, I ask my twin brother who is a real estate broker and successful wealth manager. If I want to know the right beer or wine to pair with a certain recipe, I call my younger brother who is a food and beverage expert. And if I want to talk about Christian non-profit work, I call my youngest sister who was the president for MOPs International, the Strategic Project Director for Compassion International, and is now serving with World Vision. And that’s just my family of origin.
When it comes to our presbytery, the talent pool and wisdom are multiplied exponentially. But much more importantly, the presbytery is my spiritual family whom I can reach out and touch, sisters and brothers who care about me, who know my situation and give me personalized advice. They are my friends in ministry who will encourage me to be my best self even when the “encouragement” takes the form of correction or rebuke, perhaps especially then.
I saw this played out later in the business meeting when the commissioners were discussing a draft form of our presbytery’s new mission plan. The focus of the plan, and the three broad strategies described therein, seemed to be enthusiastically celebrated by all. Yet, as commissioners read further into the plan, they found its objectives too narrowly defined to adequately address the unique context and specific needs of each congregation. Thus, the commissioners voted to send the draft back to the originating team with a ton of great input to consider.
Some people might respond to this action by saying, “bureaucracy at work” or “yet another delay,” but I responded by saying, “Yay, God, for placing us in a presbytery that makes us all better!”
We couldn’t have done this through the internet or by long distance phone call. We couldn’t have done this without carefully speaking and listening to one another in Open Space and on the floor of presbytery. We couldn’t have found God’s “better way” just by Googling it and reading the reviews.
It took a real-time conversation with people who love us, whom we love, and with whom we are endeavoring to be the best witnesses to Jesus we can possibly be together. It took being the Church of Los Ranchos Presbytery.
As I mentioned in my latest E-Blast, I believe we have reached “a point of convergence” in our presbytery. It feels like we have summited a mountain peak where we can see how things are coming together for us, where the sides of the mountain meet up, where the trails and trees end and begin. It feels good to have some elevation and perspective on the complexity of our life together. I’m not sure everything makes perfect sense yet, but I feel we are getting there.
One thing for sure, we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t “converging.” We have so much to give to and receive from each other. I suppose the commissioner I spoke to before the business meeting is right, “There are some things in life you just can’t Google.” We are better together.