Being a pastor in a large denomination, a denomination where the various churches are organizationally connected to each other and where a bishop assigns pastors to the individual churches, we have more than a few meetings.
Now, I’m not as opposed to meetings as I once was. Funny, the older I’ve gotten the less I resist going to meetings. Let me clarify. When I, because of my profession, attend a meeting of the area clergy, more than likely that meeting is held in the sanctuary of a church. This allows me to slip into the back pew of the place, off in the corner. The presider at that meeting can see that I am there. But what the presider is not aware of is this is not my first meeting. And having attended them over forty years, I’ve discovered seldom do I learn anything of substance.
But, as I said, I don’t resist these meetings. I’ve found them to be some of the most productive times of the week. My son, you see, a little while back gave me this device called a Notebook. It’s sitting on my lap right now as I’m sitting in the back pew of this latest meeting for which I received a mandatory invitation to attend.
This meeting is designed to provide information on how to submit, online, the annual report of what my church has done. I submitted my first of these annual reports just a short hop this side of the halfway mark of the last century. And I’ve submitted one every year since then. You do the math. this is not my first dance.
Sitting here in my old age, I’m fascinated by our propensity for submitting and receiving reports. Reports, you see, quantify things. Reports are designed to ascertain how much and how many. That’s true of any organization. In my particular organization it means: How many folks resided in the pews during worship the last year and how much money did they drop in the plate?
I don’t think i’m being too hard on my denomination here. It’s pretty much true of all us church folks, I think. When preachers meet each other inevitably one of the other will ask, “How many members to you have?” How much? How many?
Some things, however, cannot be reduced to numbers. Some things just cannot be quantified. Picture this: A couple are working in the kitchen of the church, preparing for a fellowship dinner later in the day. A woman with a child in her arms enters. “Excuse me,” she says, “can I talk to you a moment?” She then tells the couple of her situation, no job, no food, can’t pay the electric bill. Before you know it the couple is cleaning out the frig, putting the food into a bag for the family. Then they dig into their wallets and come up with eighty dollars combined. The young mother leaves with tears in her eyes.
So, I’m sitting here listening to the instructions on how to report on how much and how many, and I’m wondering how this kind of act of compassion can be fitted into the report. Sometimes I think we focus too much on how much and how many. Sometimes we major in the minors and minor in the majors.Well, the meetings about to wrap up. It’s been a good meeting. I got a lot off my chest.