“Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV
It sounds as if Paul is setting a high standard for the followers of Christ. Aim for perfection and be of one mind, live in peace. Almost impossible we may want to shout. We are not perfect, we are seldom of one mind and live in peace...come on now Paul, who do you think we are?
Note now the word Paul uses – aim. “Aim: to give a certain direction and elevation to. To direct or point at something. To strive or try.” (American College Dictionary, Random House, 1947) Paul Would have us aim at being perfect, being of one mind and living in peace. It was what we work or strive for. It is the goal of Evergreen Association – where we don't take votes. There are no up or down votes at any of our meetings—we work to form a consensus. We listen to every voice. We want to form a consensus that we can all live with. This is what I believe Paul is asking of the Church. This is our goal, our aim.
We, however, are used to voting. Isn't this how we discover who is right or wrong? Doesn't the majority rule? Well, NO! Look in the Scriptures for votes-they always voted wrong. I'll let you find the examples. But there it is – the peoples choice, their decisions were not what God wanted. Paul is correct. Our aim is to live in peace, harmony and to work together for the good of others; not to take up or down votes.
This is not easy. Consensus takes time. Consensus takes listening. Consensus not only takes listening, but hearing what the other is saying. Consensus means prayer. Consensus means that there are no winners or losers. Consensus means we work together, struggle together, pray together to come to a common agreement—our aim. It takes time, patience and more patience. But, if we go back to our Scripture quote, it is what we are to aim for in the Church.
Where am I going with this? Believe it or not, to Church membership. Because of incorporation laws, etc. we have to have some type of membership guidelines to satisfy the “powers that be,” whoever they be! And, for now that means that in order to vote on some issues you must be a member of the congregation. I choose the word “congregation” carefully because you can be a member of the “Church” (a follower of Jesus) without being a member of this congregation!|
It is because of incorporation laws we have membership guidelines. Which simply put are: “Confession of faith in Jesus Christ as personal Savior and baptism; transfer of letter by another Christian Church and profession of faith; or, statement of Christian faith and experience, and being in substantial accord with view of faith and principles of this Church.” (from bylaws)
Now, simply put, you have to ask for membership. You are not automatically added to a membership list – even if you have been attending, worshipping and giving for twenty years! We don't want to impose membership on you. You have to ask. And membership is required to vote on some issues. If you are interested in becoming a member or if you are not sure if you are a member, just ask me! I don't bite, very often!
This moves me back to where I started...I hope that in the coming months we will begin to think about the “Evergreen experiment” and work to eliminating voting and move to a consensus type of decision making in our meetings. Yes, it may mean a few longer meetings—but it may also result in less hurt feelings, more congregational input and more room for the “spirit of God” to move in our midst. And we may grow to like it. It is something to aim for!