How the Church Decides – 2

IMG_2155As I began to write these ponderings I was listening to Pope Francis speak to Catholic bishops in St. Matthews Catholic Cathedral in Washington D.C. The Roman Catholic Church appears to make decisions from the top down.

The Catholic church is fortunate to have a wise pope. He is moving it in a thoughtful and generally progressive direction.  I like him because he seems to seek the welfare of all peoples and embraces a catholicism much more inclusive than the Roman Catholic Church which he heads.  I like Pope Francis and his message, but I am not going to join his institutional church.  (To hear excerpts of the Pope’s speech to Congress and to read the text you may click here.)


A music box given me by the late Virginia Burns of Florida

I am inclined to continue to follow the Anabaptists who broke from the Pope’s church by rejecting infant baptism.  Anabaptists reserved that rite only for those who were able to repent, believe and make knowledgeable decisions.

Ideally, every baptized person may participate in the decision making process of the church by giving and receiving counsel.  The Old Fool has been pondering the practical meaning of those words. What is expected of the individual member?  How is counsel given and received?

As I write and revise, Pope Francis is about to give counsel to the Congress of the United States.  None of us have the platform from which to give counsel that he has. Only a few of us are privileged to give counsel through a sermon from a pulpit.  So how may the ordinary person fulfil the obligation to give counsel to the church?


A SS class at Forks, a typical small group

Anabaptists do not have a pope.  They have a process that sets the direction for the church.  Ideally, Anabaptists trust decision making, not to a pope, but to a small group process. Insights that give direction to the future of the church are generated within each small group that gathers around the Bible in the Spirit of Jesus to give and receive counsel to one another.

To be Continued




About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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3 Responses to How the Church Decides – 2

  1. Sara Alice Zimmerly says:

    You asked how “giving and receiving counsel” can be done in our congregations. Here are a few things that come to mind.
    1. It’s sharing an insight .I was washing dishes at church and I commented that I am so grateful to have an excellent report on my vision tests and I’m thanking God every day. I asked God to take care of my eyes and He is. The lady next to me said she asks God to care for her voice because she loves to sing for Him, and for her mind because she wants it clear so she can pray and spend personal time with Him. I applaud that. Hadn’t thought of it just like that. Taking counsel
    2. Becoming convinced by someone’s example. Heard someone saying we should stop “bashing” people when they suddenly anger us. I thought of how many people cuss and fuss at one another on the highways, and I’ve heard Christians make fun of that. Now, really, I need to stop wasting my time on any sort of road rage or its likeness. “they will know we are Christians – how?” Taking counsel.
    3. Leadership giving and enabling . Some people “put an hand on a shoulder” and encouraged a musical lad to see further training. They also gave his a chance to play during offering time. How many times did we hear the same song while he was getting started? We were very careful to tell him that we liked the way he played this Sunday and we want to hear more. Giving counsel.
    4.Being open to and paying attention to what God is saying to our hearts and minds during worship time. Some time ago I heard someone say they don’t feel comfortable with dancing as part of a worship service, but later I heard someone else say that he was watching a dance about Easter, and suddenly he “got” it and decided to be a Christian. When I shared that in a Sunday School group, the group agreed that we have changed and come to be able to worship with the thoughtfulness and grace of dance in worship. Receiving and giving
    5.Being quick to encourage good things. The wonderful notes that appear in church mail boxes = I like what I saw you do, I’m so glad you shared that thought, your child is cool because, and you have blessed my week, etc One a week for a year is at least 50 people blessed. And don’t forget to pray when you promise someone you will.

  2. Sara Alice Zimmerly says:

    Thanks for the blessing, Martin. I’ve been thinking on it all week. Makes me want to find more ways to serve the Lord with gladness.

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