At our recent CI gathering we discussed the RCA’s process for “discerning” a new ten-year goal. I asked the rather rude question: why goal? There were instructive and helpful responses. Among other things, it shapes where the General Synod places its resources. I am less sanguine in thinking that it can be the “goal” for local congregations.
I raise it again in the context of some comments from Michael Weinrich in an essay entitled “The Openness and Wordliness of the Church” (in Reformed and Ecumenical (Rodopi, 2000)). He claims that the world’s deepest need(s) do not require much reflection. They are right before us. However, we avoid them and instead ask about the “needs and expectations” of those in our communities who can become consumers of the church. This, for Weinrich, is avoidance not only of the deep need of the world — it’s dying — but of the reality of the church itself — that we share in the world’s death.
So much of our discernment, then, is a waste of time. Our task is not to meet the perceived needs of our fellows, but to witness to what God is about. What sort of a goal would that be: to listen to God (and so to our neighbors) and to articulate as clearly and compellingly as we can the gospel as the Spirit gives utterance?