Earlier this week I had an interesting conversation with the leadership of the Southeastern Association. We got onto some predictable ground: How important is it that all the members of any local church have any sense of the association or conference? I suppose I surprised some of them by suggesting that it isn’t very important at all.
It isn’t that I depreciate the importance of local church members understanding that the church is necessarily bigger than any one local church. The sort of thinking that reduces the church to any one congregation is destructively minimalist (and self-centered). It is – admittedly – quintessentially American….but it isn’t Christian. At its core the church of Jesus Christ is fundamentally social and it is fundamentally about the “other.” A congregation centered entirely on itself might be the first, but it certainly isn’t the second. After all, in our earliest days of Sunday School we were all taught that “God so loved the world that God gave…so that all the world might be saved.” And not long after that we were taught that the mission of any follower of Jesus is necessarily Jesus’ mission. It seems pretty clear to me that Christianity is about salvation and it’s about the salvation of others….not just the salvation (the abundant welfare!) of me and those like me.
But how does knowledge of and about the structures of the wider church (the denomination….the conference) fit into this? I’d put it this way: When the day comes that all our members are crystal clear about what it means to be Christian….when the day comes that all our members have fire in the belly about following and being like Jesus….then we can move onto to a project of wider church interpretation, but the second without the first isn’t just putting the cart before the horse….it’s all cart and no horse at all. It’s a prescription for getting buy sildenafil 100mg nowhere.
Does this mean that knowledge of the structures of the wider church is unimportant? I hope not. The wider church – in our case, the staff and program of the Iowa Conference – is working hard for the benefit of local churches. We seek to form clergy in ways that make them better and better at advancing the health and mission of local churches. We support the search process for clergy in ways designed to attract the very best pastors to Iowa. We work to entice our pastors into collegial relationships designed to foster health and creativity and passion for the life of faith and the health of communities of faithful people. All of this costs money and our only significant source of money is our churches and our people. So this work is very dependent on small but influential groups in every local church who get the importance of this “backroom work” and advocate for its generous support even when many in the congregation haven’t a clue.
The fall is budget time in many of our churches. It’s also the time when many organizations reach out to their supporters and invite financial support. If your life and the life of our local church has been benefited by the ministrations of the conference staff I hope you’ll express your gratefulness by advocating for ongoing generosity in your church’s budget. I also hope you’ll consider your own generous gift. It’s easy to do this – you can send a check to the Iowa Conference at 5609 Douglas Ave, Des Moines, IA 50310, or with credit card in hand you can go online to our website and follow the directions there to make a donation to support this work.
Thank you and God bless you. This work is entirely dependent on the faithful partnership of folk like you.
UCC in Iowa