Cakes and Soufflés - a View from the Pew image

Cakes and Soufflés - a View from the Pew

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Andrew and Matt have had a fascinating discussion over the past few days about the correct balance of relationship, theology and mission in a network of churches. Not wishing to stretch the analogy too far (too late!) I'd like to suggest that they have forgotten one ingredient that is vital to their analogies of both cakes and souffles - butter.

What might the butter be? How about communication? Whether your priority is getting the job done, getting the hermeneutic right, or getting along with everyone (or a finely balanced combination of the three), letting people - your people - know about it is essential for the health of the organisation.

The thing that guards a movement, be it confessional, congregational or apostolic, from abuse is a culture of communication. When topics become off-limits or when decisions are made behind closed-doors then implemented without explanation, that’s when things start to go wrong and those in the inner circle can begin to wield power and influence inappropriately.

Andrew has mentioned twice in this series that it is possible for an organization to have a confession, but for no-one to know what it is, because it isn’t written down. We don’t have to produce a leather-bound volume, though, with every word parsed for possible misunderstanding and future-proofed against any developments in our thinking – we just need to talk about it. Talk about what you believe and why you believe it. Introduce those of us down here on the ground to the people and networks and relationships you’re part of.

On Wednesday Andrew gave the not-entirely hypothetical example of a particular idea being taught on a training course, and gave three possible approaches. He missed, however, what seemed to me to be the obvious solution: The teacher can say, ‘This is what I believe, based on my understanding of these passages and the scholarship of x, y and z, but you will find others in the organisation who believe the opposite based on these passages and the scholarship of a, b and c.’ It’s not rocket science; just talk to us, explain things to us, demonstrate that it is possible to disagree on a point of doctrine but remain friends.

There’s an episode of The West Wing in which Charlie, President Bartlett’s aide, has let slip to the press that the President doesn’t like green beans. Press Secretary CJ is worried about how this will affect votes in Oregon – a major producer of green beans. Charlie tries to convince her that it’s no big deal, people aren’t stupid enough to let a man’s food preferences dictate their vote. “Everybody’s stupid in an election year,” CJ tells him. “No,” Charlie responds, “Everybody gets treated stupid in an election year.” Don’t treat us as stupid, explain things to us. Talk to us.

The butter of communication is essential, not just to making cakes, soufflés or any number of other desserts turn out right, but for getting that which you’ve so carefully baked out of its dish and into hungry stomachs.

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