Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Open Hands

The Spirit has been prompting us to explore our wedding policy. We have a beautiful building; many people want to get married at First Baptist. Recent inquiries have caused us to reconsider our policies. If you read them, you would find little variation from a country club contract. Preferential treatment was given to members while non-members were regarded as second-class. Non-members were forbidden from using parts of the building and were required to pay higher fees. There was even a statement requiring “unchurched” non-members to attend church at First Baptist for a period of time. The contract did not reflect our current mindset. It came from an era of institution and privilege. It was time for our policy to be revisited.

A wedding policy is about stewardship. How does a church use its building for God’s glory? Is the highest goal to protect it from damage? Should it be used to reward the faithful and penalize those who are not one of us? Is there a way to leverage this gift to impact the community in which we live?

The week prior to our leadership council meeting to discuss the policy, the lectionary took us to Matthew 5. We studied together in worship.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39) But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40) And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41) If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42) Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38–42 NIV)

Jesus describes the posture of his followers; we are willing to be abused, robbed, and ripped off. We are called to approach life with open hands, not turning away those who want to borrow from us. How would the leadership respond to this?

I was confident that the Spirit was moving, not only during our Sunday worship but also during our Monday evening meeting. Leaders quoted Matthew 5:42 as they grappled with the wedding policy. After much discussion, they dropped the non-member provisions, eager that we might have the opportunity to bless the community with our building.

I share this story with you because it illustrates a healthy discernment process. Prompted by the Spirit in numerous ways, we decided to revisit the policy. As we prepared for discussion, the Spirit brought us collectively to Matthew 5. The text was not a tool used to manipulate the leaders; it was prescribed by the lectionary. As we engaged it together in worship, it impacted our Monday evening decision.