Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What happened to casting lots?

Many Christians of varied theological persuasions argue for a stronger relationship with the Bible. From the literalists to liberals, the Bible is seen as an important component to living a life of Christian faith. Pay attention to Jesus. Pay attention to God's commandments. Follow the household codes of Paul. The Bible argues for a communal consciousness. Christians usually take their pick about what is important to them.

What happened to casting lots?

Since Seth Godin ruminated on the coin flip in April, I've thought about the dozen or so call processes I've watched closely. How many opportunities and resources are wasted with superfluous information gathering and study all in the name of "discernment?" I'm not sure the congregation learns any more about itself, prepares itself better for mission, or puts itself in a better position to have a better ministry relationship with its next pastor through a prolonged call process lasting a year or more (there are plenty of call failures out there). At what point is the line crossed between learning and resource wasting (I wonder about that and my own formalized education)? I believe reflection and study are important--I would be in the wrong line of work if I didn't. One thing Godin does not examine is that we are probably averse to coin flips because the primitive practice somehow insults our modern level intelligence or abilities. Are our methods at reaching a decision or a call choice reliable? Are they faithful? Godin looks at what we call in the church world "discernment" as a stewardship issue. There comes a time when a coin flip is better. If we want to make it sound biblical, let's call it casting lots.

Casting lots appears 23 times in the NRSV (by my count), and this methodology is depicted as faithful, fair and reliable as any study or prayer method. Let's be faithful prayers and students. But let's be good stewards and go for casting lots. Maybe then we won't overstate our importance, and even be better stewards in meantime.

9 comments:

  1. In the Bible castling lots is not just a game of chance. At the end of Acts 1, for example, when a new apostle is picked to take Judas' place, they use some criteria to narrow the list of potential candidates, but then they cast lots for the final decision. FWIW ...

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  2. Well Chris--

    It's time to take casting lots to the ELCA assembly...or at least to our respective synods. I cast lots to determine whether I was going to execute a complete study of lot casting on my blog. The lots said I should take the shorter version.

    Thanks for supplementing my post.

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  3. Mr. Curmudgeon--

    I'm not saying lot casting should completely subvert the current call process, but I think the stewardship of resources in call processes is out of whack. I didn't read the Godin article until the beginning of April, and it brought together observations I have gathered for 10 years--with no particular congregation in mind.

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  4. Amen Pastor Joe! Loved this post. I feel we often get caught up in the talking and thinking to the point that when we finally choose to act, the point is moot or the opportunity has passed.

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  5. I'm a leader in over thinking on occasion, but what I love about the coin flip is that it gives me an action to get off the dime.

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  6. Not to resurrect an old topic, but I just wanted to add that this applies to every day life decisions too. Does it really matter which restaurant to eat at? Don't overthink it, flip a coin! What to order off the menu? Pick three favorites, pick a rule to divide off the number line, and then ask your neighbor to pick a number between one and ten. For overthinkers (and I tend this way from time to time) it's a great way to let go of some stress, based on the assumption that you're going to be HAPPY ENOUGH with whatever outcome, but you have to just PICK ONE.

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