What Do We Have to Lose?

With the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church less than a month away, the fate of the Mid Councils Commission report is coming down to the wire. I hope that commissioners and other members of the church will take me up on my open invitation to be in conversation about our report and recommendations.

Tod Bolsinger, moderator of the commission, has written another great blog post about our report, focussing on the crisis of trust within our church. Check it out and join the conversation.

What I especially resonate with in Tod’s post is his comments on taking risks to try something new.

One of my mentors taught me that when what you are doing is NOT working, and you don’t know what to do, there are two things you must NOT do:

  1. Doing whatever you have been doing.
  2. Doing nothing.

In other words, doing anything new (especially if you will reflect on the new actions, learn from them and keep implementing the lessons learned) is a step in the right direction.

Critics of the the MCC report keep telling me that they are skeptical of our recommendations. They don’t think they will move us in a better direction. Or, even worse, they fear that what we are suggesting will actually harm the fabric of the PC(USA).

But what do we really have to lose by trying something new? What we are doing is clearly not working—if you don’t believe this, your head is buried in the sand. So why not inject something new into the mix to see what happens? Isn’t that the definition of a catalyst? Isn’t that what we need?

The MCC knows full well that what we have proposed is not necessarily the final answer, but trying something new—even if it completely fails—will stimulate the church to think harder about who we are, what we are called to do, and how to do it in this changing world. This is what innovation is all about.

The MCC report is not the final word on how to rethink Presbyterian councils in today’s world. But let’s try something new and see what happens. Let’s experiment, learn, and adapt together.

I don’t think we have miuch more to lose. But we have a lot to gain.

John W. Vest

John W. Vest

John is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He is co-founder of the Progressive Youth Ministry conference and blogs about his “Adventures in Post-Christendom” at johnvest.com. An enthusiastic pitmaster, he dreams of one day achieving the mystical union of church and BBQ.
John W. Vest

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  1. Jared says

    I keep comparing your conversations to my engineering world.

    In my world, we have a mantra that says, “When you believe you have found a project with no risk, you haven’t fully explored the risks. If you have actually found a project with no risk, please don’t do that project. A project with no risk is a project with absolutely no hope of reward. It will get you nowhere and you will have spent a bunch of time and effort to stay exactly where you began.”

    • says

      I think we need more tech, software, and engineering innovators informing the practices of the church today. Thanks for bringing what you know to the church!

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