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Thursday, March 31, 2011

searchlight (missional) presbytery?

Original Post: November 11, 2010

Recently I have been pondering the role and function of the presbytery related to the local congregation.  Let me start by saying that I highly value the presbytery, which is part of the polity and structure of the Presbyterian church.  I think the presbytery can provide oversight, accountability, connectionalism, and community; and these are things I value.

Recently I was also struck by a potential analogy to the "searchlight church" theme of this blog.  Analogies are not perfect, particularly because they are not comprehensive in describing things, but I think this comparison might point us in a helpful direction.

the presbytery is to the local congregation
the local congregation is to its neighborhood

Ponder that.  I almost wrote "should be" but then realized the presbytery struggles at precisely the same point the local congregation struggles: gathering resources for internal ministry rather than focusing resources on external mission.

"Now wait, wait!" you say.  Presbyteries are all about mission.  They do collectively what individual congregations cannot.  Yes, when they are working well, that is sometimes true.  But often the message and experience of presbytery is:
  • send us your money to support our programs and missions
  • send us your people to fill our committees
  • give us your days to conduct the business of presbytery
There's nothing specifically wrong with any of those things, but I see such a close analogue to the local congregation strategies that have served us since the 1950s.
  • come and visit us!
  • we've built it so that they will come
  • give to the church
  • bring your friends and neighbors
What if the presbytery could harness some of the vision of a missional church? ... or in my choice of terms, become a "searchlight presbytery?"

So, just as we've tried to re-frame local church in terms of going where our neighbors are and asking what God is doing and how we can be a part, what if the presbytery started re-framing its role in terms of going where the congregations were and asking what God was doing there and how presbytery could equip, facilitate, encourage, empower, and be a part.

What would it look like (and what would my answer be?!) if my presbytery called and asked me what God was doing in and through my local congregation and how presbytery could encourage, equip, facilitate, or otherwise be a part of what is happening?

I wonder.

Update: March/April 2011

It turns out that I didn't have to wonder... I was asked to serve as the vice-chair of council for 2011 and the chair (Kate Murphy) and I brought these very questions to our council.  Follow the link to see what is happening: http://robertaustell.blogspot.com/2011/04/searchlight-missional-presbytery.html


Related Posts (03/31/11)

Related post on missional re-think in the Presbytery of Cincinnatti: http://gamc.pcusa.org/yearbook/march-28/

The Middle Governing Bodies Commission is seeking input on the role of GA, synods, and presbyteries around questions related to the topic of this post.  Respond to one of their surveys here:

#mgbcomm survey...
for WHOLE CHURCH: http://www.pcusa.org/MGBChurchWideSurvey
for SESSIONS: http://www.pcusa.org/MGBSessionSurvey
for LEADERS: http://www.pcusa.org/MGBLeaderSurvey

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