Monday, April 12, 2010

A Decision Making Model for God's People

This week's scripture is Acts 1:13-26.

First of all, let me note that my title for this blog is "A Decision-making Model" not "The Decision-making Model." As arrogant as I know myself to be sometimes, I would not attempt to say that what I am going to talk about is the only way that God's people can make a decision....but I do believe that it represents a way that the church can approach its times of choice and decision.

The biblical context for this passage is that Judas is dead (his death is rather graphically described) and there is a need voiced to replace him. This need is heightend by the fact that the disciples have just come from Mount Olivet where Jesus has given them the task of bearing witness to Him; and two men (angels perhaps) had basically said to them, "what are you standing around for? Get on with it." There was a felt need that for this work to go forward, someone needed to be appointed to replace Judas.

The current context for chosing this passage is Broadneck's visit in two weeks from Rev. Abby Thornton who will be presented as the candidate recommended by the Pastoral Search Team to become Broadneck's new pastor.

Now, if we were members of a denomination that had a Bishop, there would be no issue. The Bishop would send and it would be done (more or less). But we're Baptists. Baptists and other "Free Church Tradition" folks call their own pastors. It's a fairly ardous task. And usually by the time the Search Team has made a recommendation everybody is ready to breath a sigh of relief, bless the recommendation, and go on about their business.

But Broadneck's Search Team, in what I think is an incredible piece of wisdom, has essentially said, 'not so fast....we've done our job; it's time for you to do yours.' So, they've set up a number of things over the weekend that Abby will be here: times for meetings with various ministry teams; times for meetings with the entire congregation; and time for Abby to lead in worship; and time, following all this for Abby to meet again with the Search Team. Then, following all this, the congregation as a whole will meet, pray, discuss, discern....and only then...decide.

Let's go back to our scripture for a bit. You'll see some of this same pattern. After Peter outlines the qualifications that the individual taking Judas' placed should have, they begin the process of deciding who that will be. In verse 23 we're told, "they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also know as Justus, and Matthias." I don't know who "they" guess is that the discussion among them narrowed things down to these two; but in any event, a proposal was made. Then, (verse 24) "they prayed and said, 'Lord you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen...'[emphasis mine]. They went seeking God's involvement and God's will not just in the proposal stage, but the discernment/decision stage. They were acutely aware of the job ahead (even if they didn't know how difficult it was going to really be), and they believed that God was intimately involved.

Then they did something you and I would find strange. They cast lots. Basically they rolled the dice. Now I don't know anyone in our day who would come candidate for us if we said, "now, after you've preached for us on Sunday, we're going to pray and then we're going to have the sacred 'rolling of the dice'...7 or 11 we'll call you...anything else, thanks for preaching." But the point of casting lots was that they wanted to be sure that God was the one making the decision.

As a denomination that believes in the Priesthood of All Believers and invests decision making power in the local congregation....we have a slightly different way of getting to the same thing. We vote. Listen carefully....please....that means that we believe that God's will is going to be known through the prayerful, discerning, decision made by each member of the congregation together. This is a awesome responsibility.

Many of us have gotten major jobs with less interviewing than is represented in the meetings set up for Abby; and folks have the responsibility to use that time to get to know her in a way that will aid their discernment. But before that ever happens, before meetings are held or congregational discussions are had, this congregation needs to be in prayer.

In another display of openness and desire to listen to what God might be doing, the agenda for the Sunday evening meeting reads: "Decisions-options-call Abby, not call Abby, or postpone decision for further discernment, others." No dice will be thrown that night in an effort to determine where God is leading. Instead, we as Baptist believe that God's will is going to be made know through the voice of the men and women of the Broadneck congregation who have listened, and prayed, and strained to hear God speaking to them about this decision.

Now, as the Interim Pastor who is also a member of this congregation, I've had to make some decisions about what is appropriate for me in this process. I will be at the Church Brunch on Saturday morning to meet and dialogue with Abby. I will not be there when she preaches on Sunday morning, nor at the meeting on Sunday night. What I will be doing, throughout all this time, beginning now, is praying.

I would ask that each of you join me in that commitment. To use this time between now and May 2 to listen to Abby's sermon that's available on line; to read the material that's been made available; to attend the meetings over that weekend; to listen with a prayerful, discerning, open spirit to Abby, to each other, and to God.

The disciples in Jerusalem got a proposal, they prayed, thay ensured as best they were able that God was part of that final decision....and they chose Matthias.

May God move in each of us during this time, that God's will and presense will be evident with Abby and with us as we move too toward decision.

See you Sunday.

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