Its conference season again, and this will continue through the summer, I presume, which means that my twitter feed is full of people on conferences tweeting the significant and important comments made by speakers.
It all frustrates me, and makes me want to respond to all of them in the same way.
The problem - and it is an endemic problems with conferences as well as with the church as a whole - is that there is a whole lot of words, and rather less action. The thing is, the words are often really good, really positive, but I have heard them all before, and I know that they do not get put into practice.
So often in churches, it seems that the statement of the words is seen as all that needs to be done.
"We believe that our priority should be to reduce our administration and paperwork"
"Excellent idea - lets set up a working party to formulate a policy about this"
It makes me think of a scene from Blackadder goes forth, where Captain Blackadder is condemned to be shot, and Percy and Baldrick identify a plan to save him. They are so delighted by their plan that they drink to celebrate. And keep drinking to their success, forgetting to actually put their plan into action.
It strikes me that the church is so often into doing this. A key feature to the success is identified - for example, a focus on young people. The church goes through its processes to include this in a mission plan, to incorporate it into the church meetings - PCCs or whatever - and this is it. Actually doing anything to change the way the church does things to actually focus on young people is something that is supposed to come out of this, but actually it doesn't, ever. It becomes an indication of disappointment, and is seen to be achieved when someone who might be younger than the average comes to church more than once.
So let me take an example of one from recently: "Worship should be for the community, not the congregation" - an interesting idea, roughly the context of some of the tweets form yesterday. I agree with this, in principle - and I should point out that in most cases, the comments and ideas are GOOD, I don't disagree with the expressions - but it means nothing. Because in a real church, this will mean changing the worship, the style and form of worship. It may mean that the musicians have to change. It may mean that the repertoire needs to be renewed. It may mean that the liturgy needs to be rewritten. And the robes might have to go, not to mention the pews and the building. Why Sunday mornings?
If we take these ideas seriously, it will mean radical, serious, huge change to the way the church does things. It might be that we have to listen to some very harsh comments - like the truth about the crap music we so often have - and take those on board. It WILL mean that the some people in the existing congregation will leave. It will be painful and difficult, and if you do it, you will be hated by some people, and you will question your motivation.
It is much easier to just write a policy, and continue as we are. Which is why we do. Of course it is also nice to have these annual conferences to give us some good ideas, and make us feel like we have been a part of a radical new focus on faith.
So yes, I like all of these ideas. But we don't live them out. Even those of you who are tweeting them as fantastic ideas will not put them into practice.