Friday, October 24, 2014

From the Newsletter . . . Lions and tigers and bylaws... O my

During our most recent Executive Committee meeting, the topic of our Bylaws and organizational structure came up, and the decision was made to begin to redo them, because, in the words of Dan Nye, our moderator, “they haven’t been working well for ten or fifteen years”. The key problem is that they were written for a church at a different size than ours. They were written for a church of 250, not 25 to 35. To try to comply with them, we have people wearing two and three hats, and if we had not just decided to have the Deacons and the Exec meet together as a single board (since every member of the Deacons was also wearing at least one other hat that required that they be there), they would be running to multiple meetings a month. Some people could have a meeting a week (or more) if we were where trying to function as our Bylaws call for. There are other problems with the Bylaws (I for one think that they should include a church statement of faith), but this is the driver that has lead us to redo them.

The plan is to do the revision in five stages. First, we will be starting with the Bible to see what it says on the qualifications of leaders, looking at re-sources the denomination recommends for churches of our size, and studying several other sets of bylaws of healthy and well governed churches, on all points of the size spectrum. Then we will write a draft that seeks to incorporate the things that are most helpful to us. After that, the deacons and exec will work on revising it till there is consensus that it is ready to be presented. From there, it will be presented to the congregations for conversation and get another round of improvements. Finally, it will be presented to the congregation for a vote., likely at the annual meeting next may. Our current bylaws call for a two thirds majority to change the bylaws.

Now, bylaws sound like boring things. In some ways they can be. But they are also hugely important. For two reasons. First of all, they lay out how a church is to be ordered. They give direction and guidance and define responsibilities. Think of them like the suspension system. The engine and drive train of the car is the gospel and the word of God. On the ground ministry is the rubber meeting the road. The bylaws are the suspension system, tying important things together and providing cushioning for the journey. It is important that they work well, or the road gets bumpy.

But second, they tell us about how the church thinks of itself. Sometimes churches build bylaws that look like a fortune a 500’s governances system, with a CEO, board of directors, middle level management. Sometimes, churches order themselves like sole proprietorships, and sometimes they set them-selves up like nonprofits. Why? Because that’s how they really see themselves. But the church is not these things, it is unlike any organization in the world, it is God’s church and it is designed for spiritual heavy work.

The church is looking to retool on so many levels. We are hard at work on re-tooling the building. We have a matching grant that provides an unprecedented opportunity to finish up the sanctuary. We are seeking to reach out. On a preliminary basis, we have approved a significant raise in what we are spending on outreach. And we are seeking as a church to be a church that is aiming towards health and vitality and life in every area. It makes sense that while we are doing the re-tooling, we tackle this.
 As we begin to do this, I have four requests for you. First, pray like crazy, pray that God guides and leads our church in this process. Second, consult your Bibles often to see if what we present lines up with God’s word. Third, listen thoughtfully and approach this with reason over emotion. Sometimes, we allow our heart to drive us where our mind would never take us. Think carefully rather than letting your heart lead you. Finally, be generous with us as we seek to do this. I don’t think any of us have written bylaws before. This will be a process of writing, revising, debating and discussing, and revising again as we seek to be governed by the word of God more fully, and develop bylaws that work well for First Baptist.. Be generous. I think that we are a congregation that can be very generous and forgiving at times, and hard on each other at other times. That is basically known as people being people. Be generous with all who are taking part in doing this. The intent at the end of the day is to facilitate the church functioning well, so that we release people for ministry rather than tie them up in meetings, and so that at the end of the day, A we glorify God, build a great community, proclaim the gospel throughout the region, and build deep disciples who connect to the gospel, grow in the gospel, serve from the gospel, share the gospel, and have their lives changed by the gospel as they live out of the gospel in every area of life. May our by-laws further that work.

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