Serving from Down and Under
It’s AGM Sunday. That there are more running for PCC than there are places is causing a buzz. Here are some of my ruminations on PCC.
There is a prevalent thinking that PCC members ought to represent their Services. The fact is the needs of Services are well represented through the work of Service Pastors and the Leadership Teams. The pastors also work together and actively discuss issues, best practices etc, with always the larger parish needs in mind. They also receive feedback about the Service from members, and are addressing them all the time. In the Service Leadership teams, there are also key lay leaders participating.
In my two years’ worth of PCC meetings, there had been hardly any ‘represented’ Service discussion. Therefore, I will say that one should not vote along Service lines. In fact, it may not be helpful if a PCC member comes in with the idea that he or she is representing a particular Service. That may be true in the secondary sense as after all, we can only speak well on issues we are involved in, but primarily we represent the whole parish and along with the Vicar, strive to keep the unity we have in Christ.
Is PCC the voice of the people? As a parish evolves and grows to the size and diversity that SAC is today, it can indeed be difficult for any lay individual to imagine that he or she is ‘speaking for the people’. With an open and flat leadership culture with many points for feedback, sharing of new ideas etc, the wisdom and voice of the community is generally well-heard.
Any PCC needs to be wise to help the church stay united to ensure factionalism does not arise (see 1 Cor 1:12ff). When leaders are united, so will be the church. And this guiding principle is one reason why we have been working hard at encouraging friendships, sharing of ministry and openness between leaders, whether lay or full-time. A church that laughs and ‘makan’ together, stays together!
As governance issues become more demanding of attention, and as urban churches grow in size and complexities, PCC can play a major role in advising and assisting the clergy on issues like building development, financial management and stewardship, renovation works, traffic issues, security, heritage and historical concerns etc. These issues are strategic and need leadership ability, big-picture thinking and a combination of technical and soft skills. That we have a PCC that is mixed in age is also helpful. They play a role to ensure that SAC is governed well, both according to Scripture, tradition and laws of the land.
If we study Acts 6 carefully, the ‘small stuff’ does matter. When the small is neglected, the mission of the church can be hindered. As every issue needs to be managed well, a wise PCC needs to delegate, empower and build on the work and ministry of others. Authority and decision-making needs to be dispersed and empowered. Sometimes, PCC serves best as cheerleaders and encouragers. We also need to recognise the principle of proportion. What issues are important and what are less so? How does each fit into the larger picture? What is the Lord saying? Spiritual discernment is crucial.
As we know, the mix of religion and power can be very powerful, for better or worse. In my 30 years of active ministry, I can see how the place and prestige of the church in society have grown dramatically. I have often put out to PCC that the authority entrusted must be held in prayer and ‘serving-hood’. In serving and in praying with our fellow leaders ‘in-community’, we let Christ direct and guide us. We do so from an ‘under’ position, i.e under-shepherd serving the Chief Shepherd. Even if I lead, I am only able to do so out of my following of Christ. 1 Peter 5, John 15, 1 Cor 2-3 come to mind.
This is one reason why PCC members should prioritise and be at our Church@ Prayer where we seek the Lord together for the life of the Church and nation. We should guard carefully our own walk with Christ, and always have brothers and sisters which we are in kononia with. In this sense, even if a church grows in size and complexity, the same underlying basics remain needful, whether it is a 30-member or 3,000-member church.
It is helpful that AGM comes after Lent and Holy Week. Like Jesus in Holy Week, both the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane are places we keep returning to. We kneel to wash and we kneel to pray. Only from this ‘under’ and ‘down’ position, will we be able to manage spiritual authority and serve after the footsteps of Christ.