Last year (2012) during Pastors Conference, I distributed a questionnaire based on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I found out that we don’t really view ourselves as team members across the yearly meeting. Several commented that it was the first time they had ever considered that idea.
As I analyzed the questionnaire results in light of Lencioni’s book, I asked myself what I could do to help not just pastors but all Northwest Yearly Meeting Friends to see themselves as being a team. After all, we are part of a denomination founded in such wonderful statements as “the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered”; “I saw, also, that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God”; and “this I knew experimentally” (George Fox, Journal, passim).
So I have been thinking about what Friends bring to the universal Church of which Jesus is the head. I think what I can do to help Friends see ourselves as part of a team is to articulate a statement of what the purpose and character of this team is, and here’s a draft. It is not an official statement, just my own musing on what we do together that is so worthwhile.
The NWYM of Friends churches are compelled to share the good news that Jesus Christ is alive and present today to teach us himself; that we identify ourselves as Friends of Jesus when we do what Jesus tells us to do individually and corporately; and that this Friendship is open to all.
I would welcome comments from any who read this. Does this capture anything unique that we Friends bring?
I see us implementing this by NWYM local outreach efforts that give a cup of cold water in Jesus’s name to our neighbors. It helps when the neighbors know that the congregation serves them because Jesus has led them to do so. The friendships built here are how we earn the right to listen and to share. I see us implementing this in our global outreach efforts that place people as ambassadors for us and God’s kingdom in very difficult places where making friends is how one earns the right to listen and to share.
Recognizing that God is already at work in each person we meet means we can watch for that and throw our efforts on that side, helping people turn around to face God, to be reconciled with God, to see that a loving God is pursuing them and wants to make them truly human and whole. God is so committed to flowing over our inner oceans of darkness and death with God’s infinite ocean of light and love.
When we listen to the voice of Jesus, our present Teacher, we often find Jesus has very practical ideas of what we should do. Maybe we don’t get a five-year plan from Jesus, but he is faithful to give us a next step to do. Additionally, Friends believe Jesus can teach congregations and even yearly meetings, moving them together and forward. So individual leadings can be submitted to a congregation or clearness committee; congregational leadings can be submitted to the yearly meeting. We challenge each other this way to listen and obey, and we set each other free to follow Jesus and to take the risks of obedience.
Individuals are not meant to be on their own. Neither are communities or congregations or yearly meetings meant to stifle obedience to Jesus. In both cases, we provoke each other to love and good works by challenging each other to listen to Jesus individually and through others, and expecting to see acts of obedience that work to reconcile the world to God.