All truth is God’s truth. That God is loving and gracious, that e=mc2, and that curious tendency of all children to giggle at hiding in plain sight with just their eyes covered, all these are expressions of God’s truth. The process of discovering God’s truth, in any of its many forms, always has an element of revelation to it as if one were being shown something. Using the vernacular of our day, our own personal discoveries have the quality of “a light coming on.” This is also the language used by Jesus as he describes the discovery of God’s nature and purposes in the world. “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The process of discovering the perspectives, experiences, and aspirations of a church is also one of revelation and has the revelatory quality of moving from darkness into light. In response, it is not uncommon for people to speak of “a light coming on” in the experience as they come to understand aspects of the entire body that they could not possibly have known from the relatively small number of interactions that characterizes the day to day relationships in most organizations. This process of reality moving out of the shadows and into the light is a spiritual journey.
As a spiritual journey, it has all the elements one would expect.
There are insights that evoke a liberating “aha” as connections
are uncovered that were not intuitively obvious. Some aspects of
the process tell us nothing new, but they express what we do
know using language that enables us to get a firmer grasp.
Sometimes the need for healing is revealed in the relational
wounds that come to light, often painful and occasionally urgent.
There are the common resistances that we all experience, the sense of inferiority or shame or fear that tempts us to retreat
back into the perceived safety of the darkness. We often find ourselves in denial struggling with what it will mean to embrace these truths which can often feel like loss. So, we engage with an air dismissiveness and return to our unfruitful behaviors which led us here in the first place.
Finally, there is the concrete action that must root itself in the earth of any spiritual journey and express itself in fruit for the Kingdom of God. The fulfillment of a spiritual journey ultimately hinges, not on the research design, but upon the spiritual practice that surrounds it. Without this spiritual practice, insights degenerate into trivia, wounds are probed but not healed, resistances harden into defensiveness and denial, and the promised new life fails to materialize as an incarnate reality. King David’s greatest loss of life was not to an enemy but to his own inability to manage information and keep it disentangled from his own ego.
For these reasons, it is critical that an evidence-based discernment process be interwoven with a robust spiritual practice including prayer, reflection, confession, devotions, study, and worship. Because an assessment generates a symbolic narrative, that is, a corporate story told through the symbol of numbers, we must ponder several questions:
- How do we deal with our stories? While the individual contribution to the assessment is confidential, the corporate story will be quite public.
- How might the disclosure of our corporate story bring insight, healing, and renewal?
- In the past, how have we dealt with surprises, with things we thought were true but we discovered were not?
- In that same past, how have we dealt with our wounds, our resistances, and our tendency to intellectualize as an escape from change?
- What Scriptures help us reflect on truth, listening to God, trusting God’s plan for us and facing change?
- How do we find access to the grace of God in this process of discovery so that our journey might be one expressive of Jesus, full of grace and truth?
When we take the time to answer these questions and weave our data with the story of our congregation, then prayerfully we can move forward with hope.