Lisa Larges: Sometimes People Just Get Along – Go Figure

Last Sunday I visited a type of Presbyterian Church that seems to be a little retro – a church where a diverse range of theological and political perspectives was represented in the membership. I can’t give you the metrics of just how diverse they are, and I don’t know firsthand how well they all get along or not. I can only report anecdotally, that several people – four or five or more – said to me, without prompting, “I really like it here. We don’t all agree on everything, but we all get along.” I can also report that the place had a wonderful feel about it. Lots of churches like to promote themselves as “friendly,” but usually the friendliest churches are the ones that don’t think to mention it. At least, that’s been my experience.

Some pastors I’ve met along the way seem to cling to the idea, against all evidence, that keeping peace in a congregation requires avoiding conflict. But the keep-a-lid-on-it strategy always ends with a spectacular mess of one sort or another. In those churches, like the one I visited last week where folks from across the theological spectrum come together in a church that seems healthy and thriving, I don’t think it’s because folks have just decided to “agree to disagree. I think it’s more a matter that people feel that they are valued, that their opinions count, and they don’t need to shout, act out, or stir things up to be heard. As soon as we start to feel that we’re being squeezed out, whether by overt or covert means, then we turn up the volume and start stomping around in the glow of our own self-righteousness. Once congregations find that sweet spot where everyone feels more or less like they have an equal share and an equal say, then everyone calms down just a bit, and everyone has just a little more room to breathe, a little more trust that things will work out alright, and a little more freedom to risk kindness and forgiveness.

How do we find that sweet spot?

Thanks for asking, as I happen to have the five steps for creating a diverse, healthy, warm, welcoming congregation. Here they are:

    • Grace
    • Grace
    • Grace
    • Grace
    • Grace

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