I had a bit of an unexpected long drive last night from Milwaukee to Columbus. Along the way, I heard a TED talk about community and order. The speaker talked about how if you pitched the concept of the old style roller rink to some friends for the first time it would sound something like this “I want to buy a large warehouse, lay the floor with concrete. Then I am going to add some hard rails on the sides and have people without certification, training or helmets skate around the floor just in one direction. There will be no pattern just one direction to skate. To music. It will be great.”
It sounds ridiculous when you think of it like that. But, when you actually go roller skating in a skating rink it works. Somehow we come together in this community of skaters, skate in one direction, and it is all to music. Some us skate fast and have to move around others. Some of us fall and make the person behind us fall. We then brush ourselves off and get back to skating. At the end of the day, it is great.
This weekend I had the opportunity to work with a congregation in Wisconsin. Their descriptive map from the Congregation Assessment Tool (CAT) looked like this:
On paper, they have people who are more conservative in their theology (scripture is the literal word of God, conversion is the first step in forming a betters society, etc.) and people who are more progressive in their theology. This congregation has people that are more adaptable to change and those who need more intentional steps to help them move towards change. Like the roller rink idea, on paper, it might seem like having this community work together may end up in a large pile up of stalemates and divisiveness – skaters in all directions with a hard floor beneath.
Instead, as we worked through all the congregation’s data, we kept this diversity in front of us for a large part of the conversation. There is work to do. This congregation has experienced some tough set-backs. However, the leadership kept naming their diverse congregation as a strength and coming back to it as a focal point. This type of thoughtful leadership, with a deep care towards their level of internal diversity, will aid the congregation through their time of pastoral transition. It will also help determine what gifts and skills their next pastor needs to have as well as what strengths and growth edges the leadership needs to focus on while they are in transition.
When Paul wrote I Corinthians he appealed to the church community in Corinth who was experiencing a divisiveness in their leadership and in their thinking. He wrote “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Corinthians 1:10.
What I heard yesterday from the leadership of this congregation was exactly this. They have fully claimed being a congregation that has folks from differing theologies, adaptability levels and places on the descriptive map. When they come together in the name of Christ, when they work and worship together with all of the different thoughts, beliefs and ways of moving in community it works. It is an unexpected unity. For me this was a great reminder that if we all keep our eyes on Christ and work towards our preferred future of ourselves in our congregations, we really can skate quite beautifully – even if you throw in an occasional fall now and again.