About a year ago, some of the Regional staff came to Minnesota to talk to local Disciples. At that meeting was someone I had not met before. At the end of the meeting, he came forward and chatted with the Associate Regional Minister and was upset that there was no mission going on in the Region. Where were the new churches? He asked.
In talking with the man, I found that he as Disciple that attended a local UCC congregation. I later sent an email talking about new church plants and if he would be interested. Long story short, he said no, and then went on to say all the Disciple churches should just join the UCC where things are happening.
I thought there were two things wrong with this guy's response. First, he seemed to think that it was the job of the Region to do mission. While the Regional staff could take a bigger role that it has in my mind, the push for mission in a congregational polity lies in the congregation and the individual, not in the Regional staff. It's funny, we Disciples will swear up and down that we don't want anyone telling us what to do, but then get mad when Regional staff doesn't seem to do what we want them to do. We want the freedom, but we don't want the responsibility, thank you very much.
This man is not the first person I've heard talking about the sorry state of Disciples in Minnesota. He is also not the first that seems to do nothing more than bitch and moan about how bad things are and how the Regional staff has to do something about it.
But the fact is, if we want things to change, then WE the people have to make them in partnership with the Regional staff. You might have noticed I am using the word "Regional staff" alot. That's because too often when we use the word "Region" we tend to refer to the staff, not the people. The Region, any Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is made up of people and churches in a given geographical area. However, we act as if it is only the folks in Des Moines. If something is going on, then it's the problem of the Regional Minister, and their Associates, not us. The Disciples who are part of or were part of congregations have detached themselves from the Region, but still expect it to do something.
Ministry starts with us, the people. If all I do is sit in my pew and do very little to change the state of missions in the Region, then the fault lies with me, not only with the Regional Minister.
I know something of this, because when I tried to get Community of Grace off the ground, I got a very chilly reception from people. No one wanted to support this church, expecting the Region would do that for them. As the old saying goes, Everybody thought Somebody would do something and in the end, Nobody did anything.
I think that my fellow Disciples need to grow up a bit. The Regional staff is only as strong as the people who support them. We want freedom from the Regional staff, but we don't do anything to uplift ministry and we do even less when it comes to supporting them.
I think what it comes down to is that we don't want the responsibility, that's too much work and it puts us in the position of taking blame. However, it also puts us in the awesome position of working with God in bringing about God's kingdom. But maybe that's too scary; it's safer to sit in our pews and piss and moan.