14 December 2010

rejecting robert's

Perhaps you've heard of them. Maybe you've attended them. (Pray you haven't caused them!) But a few weeks ago I was at a church meeting where we had to drag out Robert's Rules of Order as though it were a divine addendum to holy writ, and commence beating each other into submission while Jesus' summons to love faded quickly into the annals of tradition. Although Qoheleth is certainly right to conclude that nothing is new under the sun, and I am seldom surprised by anything people will or will not do, I continually marvel at the level at which a community built on the precepts of Christ's love and the Spirit's unity will tear itself apart for the purposes of attaining power.

Perhaps I am not the best judge of this level of human behavior, for I can find no empathy within myself for those whose primary desire is to achieve control and influence over a single congregation - a tiny blip on the radar of modern evangelicalism, Christian history and the coming eternity. But there are some that make this their life's work, and capitalize on every opportunity to do so.

Without a doubt, one of the primary weapons in such an arsenal is Robert's Rules of Order, a nice little book which many churchgoers have taken to memorize and implement even more than their Bibles. My suspicion of Robert's was confirmed when I witnessed an otherwise good and healthy dialogue immediately disintegrate when one person (rather loudly) invoked the "proper procedure" according to Robert's Rules of Order. (I found it fascinating that the tone in which this was conveyed did violate a good amount of proper Christian conduct, which was clearly of second-importance.) And once Robert's was on the table, it became a free-for-all with little chance of resetting the course of the discussion.

Interestingly enough, Robert's Rules of Order seems to be based upon one simple premise: that people will not get along when trying to work together. However, the church is built upon a simple premise that believers will be of one accord. Therein lies the problem when we invoke Robert's Rules or any other type of corporate mentality into the church. Too often the interests of this world and the objectives of the kingdom are at odds, structurally speaking. This means that we cannot assume that corporate approaches will align with Scriptural ideals. Sometimes there are intersections, but on the whole the two are vastly different.

In his new book on the church, Charles Swindoll writes, ". . . clear, biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality." This coincides with a quote he recognizes from A. W. Tozer, "The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God - not an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice."

Whenever you are involved in a church thingy there is potential for something to go incredibly wrong. This is because the church is comprised of people, who are still fundamentally cracked and broken (even though some are working on this). Church thingies often become ridiculous at best, heartbreaking at worst. And, in the interest of full disclosure, our church bylaws never once mention Robert's Rules of Order. In other words, we don't adhere to them. Oh, what we won't do to get the "win" in our own minds.

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