In Italy, as you will have gathered if you have read any of my blogs over the past year or so, things are a bit different and so it should be no surprise for me to say I have just attended one of the most chaotic church business meetings I have ever experienced.
I am not even quite sure if it was an AGM – because nobody said although we did look at the finances for the whole year. However what was most interesting was the lack of much direction and chairing of the meeting. Often as many as 5 or 6 different conversations could be going on simultaneously – this would be hard enough to deal with in English but when it was in Italian most often I just tried to follow the one nearest me until somebody would eventually realise that this way of discussing things did not achieve very much.
The agenda was not made public at the beginning of the meeting and therefore only those who had ordered the agenda knew what was going to be discussed. I recall someone saying to me very recently that if you don’t know the agenda for a meeting before you start it is better not to go. As I am not a member of the church it did not affect me greatly what was discussed however it was very revealing the order and priority of things discussed.
The other interesting element for me was that the church community seemed to try and work in the form of a democracy – which I think is an error. As far as I am aware the church is nowhere described as democracy with everyone having an equal vote – we are described as being equal but that does not translate as all having equal authority. My understanding of how the curch operates is that it is a theocracy in which Christ is the Head and then the Holy Spirit identifies from among the members certain leaders – elders, deacons etc and they are appointed to lead the church – not to manage it as a company or cooperative but to lead by the guidance of the Spirit. So when a church begins to function with a one member one vote type of mentality I think perhaps it has strayed from the New Testament order of things and in fact does not require a leader but a manager.
So after roughly 3 hours of talking about many things including how to best use a relatively small sum each month (which conversation lasted around 20minutes) my brain was fried and I was very disillusioned by this experience of the church in Italy.
I am grateful however for it as it reminds me of the reality of how difficult and fragile the evangelical church in general is in Italy and so I feel the Lord was bringing this to my mind just to help me keep a realistic view of what is happening in Italy and therefore to understand better again how to proceed as we try to work in helping the churches regain a missonal perspective.