Do you sometime feel like you have two different congregations under one roof? The “heritage” crowd who have been long-time members, faithfully supporting the church over the years, and the “emerging” crowd of new people who may or may not join the church, yet are hungry for the Gospel and to put their faith in action, even if their checkbooks aren’t always as eager? Does it feel like you are caught between competing voices each of whom is struggling to be the loudest, the one that is heard?
“Stop making so many changes, we like the old music and hate gluten-free wafers!”
“Hey, can we try this?…or that?”
The noise can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling like we are caught in the middle. The anxiety can bring mission to a halt. On the one hand, we love our long-time members and feel a loyalty to their preferences; after all, they are the strongest givers. On the other hand, we feel energized by people who want to follow Jesus, aligning their lives with him each day and asking challenging, thought-provoking questions. How in the world can we bridge the gap without sacrificing our own sense of call?
The answer is to take a Third Side. You can have natural sympathies for one side or the other and still choose to take the Third Side. The Third Side offers “a promising new way of looking at the conflicts around us. The Third Side is the community – us – in action protecting our most precious interests in safety and well-being” (fromwww.thirdside.org). Taking the Third Side means:
- Seeking to understand both sides of the conflict
- Encouraging a process of cooperative negotiation
- Supporting a wise solution – one that fairly meets the essential needs of both sides and the community
Holding our congregations together is only possible if we have something bigger than our own personal interest guiding us. It helps to have a clear purpose and core values. In a congregation, we need to always remember that the stakeholders include:
- Long-time members who have supported the congregation in the past
- New members who are learning to be leaders in a faith community
- Future generations, members, and people who will be blessed by this congregation
The ministry of a congregation changes the very fabric of the neighborhood and contributes to the world in ways you cannot measure by the choice of a communion wafer. As leaders we are thinking way too small when we allow ourselves to be triangulated or when we dig in our heels around a single issue. We must step out of the conflict long enough to get re-centered in order to lead with faithful perspective.
The cost of meeting personal needs is too high. We are the church, Jesus Christ incarnate in the world. Take 20 minutes to watch this Ted Talk and begin to vision the Third Side.
|William Ury: The walk from “no” to “yes”|