A Year’s Political Reflection

I’ve had the privilege and challenge of serving my denomination’s regional polity for the last year as a Regional Vice President.  It sounds impressive, and I suppose by some standards it is.  But it’s an unpaid leadership position which, in my case, made me nominally responsible for about 60 congregations.  I don’t have much real authority, but there’s a theoretical hierarchy that I was a part of.  I didn’t seek out this role, I was appointed to it when the guy who was doing it previously retired rather suddenly and the District President needed to appoint someone to finish out his term.

Today I faced off in an election with two other pastors in the Region for a three-year term of this office.  I lost, which is fine with me.  As I said, I never asked for this, and I’m not all together certain I was the best person for the job.  But I was a willing servant.  My brief experience in this capacity hasn’t provided me with any greater insight into why we do things the way we do.  But it has caused me to reflect on the nature of that type of work – administrative/bureaucratic-type  stuff.  It isn’t that the work doesn’t matter, it does.  But what sort of work is it, really?

A colleague had a great way of describing this sort of work.   He related it to Acts 6.  The Apostles are grappling with ancillary problems related to the ministry.  They’re attending to issues of organization and life together.  Issues of getting along.  Dealing with complaints and allegations.  Politics, after a certain fashion.  The solution they come up with is to appoint seven other good men to oversee these issues.  These aren’t lesser men by any means.  But in order for the Apostles to do their work, the work of preaching the Word, these other seven men need to deal with the other stuff.  The politics.

The Apostles recognized that their main work was to preach and teach the Word of God.  While these other issues needed to be attended to, they couldn’t allow them to hold them back from their primary work  in preaching the Word.  So it is with ecclesiastical bureaucracy and administration today.   At best, they take care of necessary ancillary issues so that pastors and other folks can focus on the main work of the Church – preaching the Word.

We need good men and women to fill these roles, but we need to bear in mind the sort of work it is.  It’s necessary, but the primary goal of such work should be facilitating the preaching of the Word by those who are freed from these other tasks and duties.

I like that.  For a year I got to learn a little more about how the bureaucrats and administrators attempt to free up pastors and other professionals to preach the Word.  It’s not a perfect system, as it likely wasn’t in Acts 6.  But we do the best we can and try not to mess things up more than necessary.  I pray that those who take on these roles for the next three years will be a blessing by freeing me up to preach the Word.


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