Jim Loomis

Experiences, Observations, Opinions


In my last post (May 3) I suggested ways in which we could determine if we should adopt Chapel Hill’s Vital Church Initiatives’ prescriptions.  My suggestions had to do with how much we could do by ourselves versus how much we would need God’s intervention to complete the prescriptions. But I did not address another critical component of the decision making process.

In only talking about the fulfillment of the prescriptions, by default I assumed that the concerns identified by the VCI Consultation Team were correct. In fact, their concerns (or diagnoses, if you will) may or may not be correct.

The facts that the Consultation Team examined are hard to refute. To take one example, they noted that, “Many staff and leaders could not articulate a faith journey.” This was one indicator that was used to determine that we are “spiritually poor,” which was the first concern that the Consultation Team identified. Based on the concern that we are “spiritually poor,” the Team prescribed a series of activities all focused on “a concerted small group ministry.”

In the town hall meeting that I attended last week, there was a lot of discussion about our previous attempts to have small groups and how difficult they are to organize and maintain. Our discussion was about the prescription. But we did not discuss or question the validity of the concern that we are “spiritually poor,” or how the facts that were noted led the Consultation Team to make that diagnosis.

To continue with this example, the fact that, “Many staff and leaders could not articulate a faith journey,” may not indicate that we are “spiritually poor.” Perhaps those staff members and leaders live out the rich results of their faith journey each day. Perhaps they are not “spiritually poor,” but are simply not good articulators, much like Moses. The fact that they could not articulate their faith journey does not necessarily mean that our congregation is “spiritually poor.” It might, but it might not.

As a medical patient, most of us would not agree to a course of chemotherapy unless we agreed with the doctor’s diagnosis of cancer. Even then, many of us would ask what the facts are (the lab tests, the CT scans, etc.) that led to the diagnosis of cancer, especially if we had not noted any symptoms of illness.

Before we consider if the “prescription” is worth pursuing, we must first agree that the concern is accurate. In our town hall meeting I heard some of our members question the concern of “spiritually poverty” in stunned disbelief. I did not hear anybody question whether the facts used to identify our “spiritually poverty” accurately led to that concern.

I am not casting judgement on the accuracy of the Consultation Team’s conclusions. They may be right. In fact, for most of the concerns identified I think that they are. But before we consider whether or not we should accept and then implement their prescriptions, we first need to:

  • determine if the facts that they have identified are true,
  • determine if those facts accurately lead to the concerns identified by the Consultation Team,
  • decide if we will take ownership of the concerns; do we agree that these are problem areas that need to be fixed, and only then,
  • determine if their prescriptions will effectively remedy the concerns that they identified.

If we only consider the prescriptions without first examining these prior fundamental questions, we are wasting our time. We will give up our efforts long before we fully complete the prescriptions. This would be no different than the medical patient who will discontinue chemotherapy, thus avoiding the difficult changes and suffering that comes with that form of treatment, unless he or she fully agrees with the diagnosis and seriousness of the cancer.

Let’s broaden our discussion at our next two town hall meetings.


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