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Friday Update with Adam Stiles 6-26-20

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To Our Lake Avenue Church Family Members,

We write to you as a group of former elected leaders who share a deep love of God and his people at Lake Avenue Church. We have seen God work tremendously in and through Lake over many years and seasons. We also have faith that he continues to work among us now and will do so in the years to come.

We write to share some convictions with you, convictions we know many of you, and others in our community share. In our years serving, we have often felt that leading at Lake is harder than it needs to be. Lake is a unique church. This uniqueness is a source of great strength, but it can also be a source of weakness. This seems to be particularly true when it comes to our church’s polity and governance. Over time we have seen instances again and again where our ministries have flourished in spite of our structures and rules, not because of them. Too often our system denies our leaders the ability to nimbly respond to and follow the movement of the Holy Spirit as they guide our church. This should not be so.

Earlier this year Pastor Jeff in his statement of vision called us to be a church in motion and to be attentive to what the Spirit is doing. Following this call, we believe that the time has come to take a comprehensive look at refreshing and renewing our Bylaws and the structures they prescribe. The Senior Pastor transition and COVID-19 pandemic provide us with a unique opportunity to ask questions and consider changes that we should not overlook.

Even as we make this call to consider change, there is much we have to affirm. We are steadfastly committed to a church with Jesus Christ as its head, governed by God’s holy scriptures, and in step with the Holy Spirit. Our current Statement of Faith articulates this beautifully. While we recognize that congregationalism can take many forms, we also affirm that we have always been and will remain a congregational church. Finally, we want to affirm the faithful, steadfast leadership of Lake’s pastors and lay leaders past and present. This call is in no way an indictment of them. Rather we celebrate the ways that God has consistently used the people of Lake Avenue Church to do his work, no matter the season or circumstance.

In the midst of so much that is good, we have still identified several large areas in our polity and governance that we believe are due for serious examination and consideration. One is the nature of spiritual leadership at the church. Do we currently have clear and proper roles for lay leaders, pastors, and the congregation at large as we carry out responsibilities and make decisions? Another is our overall system of leadership organization. Does our existing structure of various committees, ministry teams, and staff set us up to do ministry well now and in the future? The last is our current practice of leadership selection. Do our policies for selecting our pastors and lay leaders allow us to raise up the people we need at the times that we need them?

We recognize that these are big and complicated questions and answering them well will require careful and diligent work. We also recognize that it would be potentially problematic for our current Ministry Council to manage a process that could result in proposing changes to the Ministry Council itself. Instead, we feel led to step forward. Last month we wrote a letter to the Ministry Council and volunteered to lead the congregation in overseeing a transparent and open process to renew our Bylaws. We met with the Council during their retreat and asked for their input, support, and blessing. At a subsequent session, the Ministry Council voted unanimously to commission us in this endeavor.

We are still working on the details of how this process will unfold and we will share more details soon. There will be a number of opportunities for congregational members to engage with us in this process. We would love to stay in touch with you and share progress along the way. The best way to connect with us is to visit bylaws2020.substack.com/ where you can add your email to our list, ask questions, and read the latest updates.

We recognize that the five of us are not a diverse group. Though we hope to use our experience as prior Church Chairs to help facilitate this effort, we envision a much broader group of people will be involved throughout the process.

This is a large task, but one we firmly believe that God can see us through together. We hope that the end result of such a process would be that our church is more effective in ministry, more responsive to the Spirit and that we would be prepared for God to move through us even more powerfully in the next season in Pasadena and around the world.

Blessings,

Jim Howe
Lee Merritt
Bill Podley
Dave Powell
Adam Stiles

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