In both the collections of congregations that I serve, we have a very informal approach to doing the business of the church. There is a formal process requiring notice and written agendas and stuff like that but we reserve that for really important stuff where we would actually have to discuss and have a recorded vote–something that might happen once or twice a decade. Mostly, we realize that we need a meeting and sometines announce it for the next week after worship but sometimes, we announce it during the announcements and have it after that worship. It is a system that would probably drive some people and churches up the wall but it works for us and so we keep doing it.
Anyway, one Sunday, the moderator told me that she had a long list of things that needed to be dealt with. There was nothing on the list that was difficult or controversial so she suggested that we have a meeting after the worship and deal with it all. Worship began, followed its appointed course and finished. After we finished singing the threefold “Amen”, I reminded people of the meeting and headed for a seat–I don’t have much to do at meetings except begin and end them with prayer.
As the congregation settled down for the meeting, our new couple got up to leave, at which point, the moderator called out their names and said they were welcome to stay, something that she and others have done before when we have new people–it is an almost automatic response. We are a small group and like to include everyone in what we do. I managed to get to them to greet them before they left and reinforced the invitation but they chose to leave. After seeing them off, I sat down, the meeting progressed, we finished, I prayed and we all went home. Just another somewhat typical worship and meeting for our small church.
So, we all show up for Bible Study during the week. Almost all the regulars are there and the group now includes the new couple. We always begin Bible study with an opportunity for people to ask questions or make comments about the past Sunday worship service. There were a couple of comments about the service and a bit of discussion about the sermon theme. And as that petered out, the husband of the new couple began to talk about the meeting after worship.
He had some very strong feelings about that part of the afternoon. He did mention that he liked the sermon but for him, the high point of the day was being invited by name to stay for the meeting. It gave him a sense of belonging, a feeling that he was part of us. It was clear to all of us that the moderator’s invitation touched both of them deeply. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone as deeply moved by an invitation to attend a business meeting. He went on to give a little background that helped us see some of what made the invitation significant to him–not the whole story but enough.
We are always hearing about how some off the cuff remark offends and upsets people. It is not uncommon to hear of someone who has stopped being a part of a church because of some comment that the pastor or Sunday School teacher or janitor or someone else made. Sometimes, I get a bit paranoid and spend too much time wondering how I am going to phrase a comment that I know can cause some problems.
And so it is nice now and then to see an unplanned and somewhat off-hand comment have the opposite effect. It is encouraging to know that thanks to the Holy Spirit, those comments that we might have made a dozen times before are sometimes just the thing that a person needs to hear and will be used powerfully by the Holy Spirit. That particular day, our worship was good, the meeting was okay–but the most significant thing that happened, I think, was that God was able to use something all of us had done many times before to make a difference to someone who needed it.
May the peace of God be with you.