A Change in Perspective: the view from seat 11A

Despite the oft-repeated hassles of flying these days, there are some benefits. One of these benefits is the opportunity to be perfectly alone with one’s thoughts and ideas: the introvert’s dream.  I admit that when flying I often leave the plane with a sense of accomplishment and a list of ideas and inspiration in my work.  I’m sure the fasten seatbelt light is on to keep those “eureka” moments in check.

Last week I flew to Dallas where I met with other presbytery leaders and representatives of our denominations health insurance and pension provider. While a key part of my job includes social networking, for a few hours it was me and my thoughts.  The only  interruptions were the beverage service request and/or the sound of the jet engines.

As I spent my time alone with 150 others, I read the following in the airline magazine, “There is an understandable but misguided tendency to try to mobilize action against a problem by depicting it as regrettably frequent.” The quote by Bob Cialdini was part of an article that talked about marketing, about social networks and about us – the consumers of vast amounts of daily information.

These words made me realize just how many conversations in the church fall into the category of “What-is-wrong-with-the-church-today” and end up with laments that “there-is-little-or-nothing-we-can-do-about-it.”   We don’t talk with one another about the exciting  things that are happening.  We complain about what isn’t happening.  We are better at preaching about the ‘mess-ion’ we’re in, and not the “mission” we are to accomplish.

When denominational leaders – presbytery executives and stated clerks – get together, we no longer speak about new churches or worshiping communities as the reason for our existence.  We spend more time talking about disaffected pastors and congregations.  We believe that we can mobilize action against a problem by referring to it as regrettably frequent.   Truthfully, we have solved nothing nor will we mobilize the right kind of action if we dwell on the frequency of the problem.

Sitting in seat 11A, somewhere around 7 miles in the air, I began to recognize that I need a change in perspective. The thought, or struggle with the thought has been building for a while.  I remember the presbytery meeting in 2011 when I asked the Presbytery of Boise to consider the possibility of creating and/or expanding the Presbyterian presence to the number 20 by the year 2020.  At the time there were 16 congregations in our presbytery and the campus ministry program at the College of Idaho.  We only needed 3 more expressions of our Presbyterian mission to develop in a 9 year period.

But then, things began to happen, and today we find ourselves smaller in number.  We have dismissed one congregation and an Administrative Commission is working with another congregation toward dismissal.  Suddenly, I find that my thinking about the issues confronting our presbytery and denomination is lamentation and drifting dangerously close to hopelessness and despair.

Sitting in seat 11A I watched the patterns of snow-covered mountains and the green circular crop patterns formed by the reach of irrigation equipment.  I noticed the twists and turns of rivers and the movement of ant-like vehicles along roadways.  I began to consider the difference in my perspective.

From the ground, the mountains rise over me and the field blocks my line of sight.  I notice the movement of the water but see only as far as the river’s next bend.  The vehicles become larger and more deadly than they appeared from the air.

As we reach mid-year 2012, its time for a change in perspective.  The General Assembly Mission Council has invited the PCUSA to engage in a period where we create 1001 new worshiping communities.  This is a shift from the old notion of new church development as the mission and sign of health in presbyteries.  This idea is exactly what I shared with our presbytery.

Here’s what I’d like to see happen:  conversations begin toward the establishment of a campus ministry program at Boise State University, plans to invite and host winter worship in McCall, and development of a youth retreat this fall.

Its time for a change in perspective.  I invite you to join me in an exciting time and work for Boise Presbytery.


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