I just sat—and I do mean sat (and sat, and sat)—through my 15th synod (the annual weeklong leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church). You’ll have to check with my wife and family, of course, but I’m convinced that attending synods has made me a better man.
Some of those synods have been wild and woolly; a few tranquil and silky smooth; most were a patchwork of both.
But without exception they have been challenging, open, and uplifting—strengthening and invigorating my commitment to our denomination.
Hearing delegates and agency folks from all over the continent and around the globe tell what God has done for us, in us, and through us as a church boggles my mind. And witnessing close to 200 delegates struggle and succeed in becoming of one mind on issue after issue is truly a wonder to behold.
Many delegates tell me synod affects them the same way. Despite the long, tiring, tightly packed days of deliberation, they are glad to be there. In truth, I’ve never heard a single delegate, old or young, elder or preacher, Korean or Dutch, tell me any different. I’ve often heard the sincere wish that all the folks back home could attend synod at least once in their lifetime. (Given the miracle of Web technology, that’s not nearly as far-fetched as it once seemed.)
So here are 10 things that really impress me about the way synod does business and models for me how to be a better Christian—spouse, parent, congregation member, and friend:
- Talk one person at a time and don’t cut each other off.
- Take turns talking and listening.
- Give everyone a chance to speak his (or her) piece.
- Take some solid biblical advice: “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (Eccl. 6:11).
- Don’t talk when you have nothing to say. Mind the old saw: “Never miss an opportunity to remain silent.”
- Mind the Alberta oil patch rule: If you’re drilling for oil and don’t strike any in a minute or two, quit. This means simply: if folks are done listening before you’re done talking, shuddup and siddown.
- Talk about one thing at a time, and finish discussing it before moving on to the next thing.
- When folks get tense, tired, or angry, say something funny.
- When you get all twisted around, get some good advice (like from an older brother or somebody smart like that—even if he isn’t particularly good-looking).
- Don’t give up talking together until you’ve come to agreement or have agreed on an agreeable way to seek agreement again at an agreed-upon later time.
Beyond those things, the most important thing that synod regularly reminds me of is to bathe all our conversations in prayer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, [you] should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to [you]” (James 1:5).
Fifteen synods later I have yet to see that prayer go unanswered.