This coming weekend I am travelling to Queensland to attend a Synod meeting for my denomination, the Westminster Presbyterian Church. If you have grown up outside the church or in some kind of independent church the whole concept seems kind of strange. Surely the real business of the church is the local church; meeting with other church pastors and elders seems kind of redundant to many.
The only reason the word ‘synod’ comes into newspapers is when there is some controversy in some denomination, usually on hot button issues like women’s ordination or gay marriage or the like. So when people hear about a Synod they expect it to be a fiery, divided affair which leaves everyone kind of unhappy and frustrated.
The Synod I am attending this coming weekend is expected to be nothing like this. Every 2 years our denomination, which is only quite small, meets together. Synod-level issues include things that impact the wider denomination, such as how we might relate to other denominations or Christian groups, how we might improve the ways we do ministry and issues of that nature. In fact, the agenda for this coming Synod is quite ordinary and uncontroversial. I expect to hear about what the other churches in our denomination are doing and attempting for the gospel; the hopes and struggles of my fellow pastors; and to share some dreams about church planting and associating with other groups such as a like-minded denomination in Burma. There should be nothing of interest to secular newspapers coming from this meeting!
Really, this lines up with something I have been thinking about for a while. Much of the Christian life is the unexciting stuff – the persevering when things are tough, the regular prayer and Bible study, the routine of church and groups and family devotions. Sometimes you feel something extraordinary, or someone you are witnessing to responds to the gospel, or church grows rapidly. But often it is in the mundane parts of your Christian life that you see faithfulness, not in the occasional heightened parts.
And while in Queensland, a place I have never been before, I will be billeted to stay in the home of some members of a sister church. I pray that I might be an encouragement to them, and they to me, as I try to understand what it looks like to be a Christian and a church in that culture which differs in some ways from mine.
I suppose it is a matter of perspective. Is it a three day meeting on the other side of the country? Yes it is. Does it mean I lose most of a week of local church work to be there? Yes it does. But for the long term relationships in our denomination, and the encouragement of others, it is invaluable. It is a wonderful gift from God to have brothers and sisters who serve faithfully in other places. If we never lift up our eyes from our local context we can miss the real meaning of unity, and we can miss the opportunities to do more together than we could ever do by ourselves.