At our recent Diocese of BC Clergy Conference, our Bishop showed a clip from a TED Talk by Simon Sinek.

In this video Sinek argues that organizations run into trouble when what they do becomes separated from why they are doing what they are doing:

When an organization is founded what they do and why they do it are inextricably linked… The problem is, as what they do becomes more successful… and starts to grow…the why they do it starts to grow fuzzy. And this is the biggest single challenge any organization will face. I call it the split.

So why do we do what we do in the church? What is our why?

There is no one correct answer to the why of church. I can only offer my personal answer to why I believe I do church.

My personal why for church is:

Church exists to enable all people to allow their hearts to open and become responsive to the mysterious divine Presence at the heart of all creation.

Every part of this description of why I do church is important:

1.”Church” does not mean a specific building, time, place, or form. “Church” in this definition is people sharing a common commitment to holding their hearts open and responsive to the divine Presence. In Christian tradition we perceive this divine Presence particularly manifest in the person of Jesus who embodied the heart-opening we seek in our community.

2. There is no one prescribed way to fulfill this goal that will work for all people, at all times, in all places. Hearts only open when the instruments we use to support that heart opening resonate with the specific people gathered in a specific time and place. The external forms that facilitate internal heart opening must be flexible and adaptable to accommodate the realities of peoples’ lives. We are committed to the process not the form by which the process is supported.

3. “To enable all people to allow their hearts to open and become responsive” – the construction here is intentionally passive. It is based on the conviction that all human beings are created in “the image and likeness” (Genesis 1:27).  All human beings bear an inherent similarity to the divine Presence at the heart of all creation. We do not have to force hearts to open. Opening is the natural state of a human heart. If we do not perceive this truth, we are not looking or listening deeply and gently enough.

4. We seek to enable people to “become responsive”. Church is rooted in trust. Our trust lies not in any external form, but in the presence of the living Holy Spirit dwelling in all peoples’ hearts and breathing life into human structures. We trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in peoples’ lives. There is something to which we feel called to respond. We seek only to support people in listening deeply within to the guidance of God’s Spirit in their lives. The Holy Spirit is the motivator in the church.

5. We believe the Holy Spirit is already at work in the lives of “all people”. If a person is alive, the Holy Spirit is present and at work in their lives. We do not have to cause God’s Spirit to be at work in anyone’s life. We need only to affirm the work of God’s Spirit where the Spirit is at work and support all people in cooperating more deeply with the Spirit’s work wherever that work can be discerned.