No More Kicking Cans…We’ve Run Out of Road
“Kicking the can down the road” is an idiom, made popular in mid-1980’s politics, that basically means that you are delaying a decision in hopes that the problem or issue will go away, or that by delaying the decision, somebody else will make the decision for you. It is basically a metaphoric phrase that describes procrastination. With that said, I suppose all of us have done a little “can-kicking” at some point in our life.
In preparation for the 2018 General Assembly, I dedicated hours on top of hours listening to recordings and viewing videos of previous General Assemblies. I was stunned to realize that a good bit of the agenda we were about to discuss in Orlando had in some shape, form, or fashion been “hashed and rehashed” in several of those previous General Assembly sessions. A case in point is the use of the title “Bishop.” In 2018, this motion was brought before the General Council and the General Assembly:
“We Recommend That open Ministry Forums be conducted globally to provide opportunity for deliberate and meaningful discussion, dialogue, questions/ answers and time for spiritual insight regarding the importance and understanding of ministry ranks, qualifications, and women in ministry with attention upon the meaning and usage of the title “bishop.” Following the forums, appropriate motion(s) be formulated by the International Executive Council specifically addressing the stated issues and brought to the 2020 International General Council.”
Interestingly enough, in my preparation I reviewed the video of the 2004 General Assembly held in San Antonio – the Assembly where I was first elected to the Executive Committee. As the newly elected Secretary-General, I watched myself read a motion very similar to the one we would consider in Orlando fourteen years later. The 2004 measure read as follows:
“We recommend that a study be conducted and a theological paper prepared defining the meaning and usage of the title Ordained Bishop in order to clarify the intent of the Executive Council with respect to nomenclature for ministerial rank in the Church of God. Further, that said study be brought back to the 2006 General Assembly and that the results of such study be included in the minutes of the International General Assembly of the Church of God.”
Admittedly, the verbiage was different, but the intent was the same – “Would someone please figure out what we meant and what we need to do with this title of Ordained Bishop that we adopted in 2000?”
From the adoption of the “Bishop” nomenclature, we immediately began struggling with it as is evidenced by the 2004 measure. In some manner, the issue has been brought up in at least four General Assemblies since 2000 and now it’s on track to come back in 2020.
So, what is the point?
The point is that with this item and with others, intentionally or not, we have kicked a truckload of cans down a long road and we have now run out of pavement. There is no road left!
The same can be said about other important topics, especially the issue of women in ministry and church leadership. By my count, since 1986 the subject of women in ministry/leadership has appeared seventeen times on the General Council/General Assembly agenda – again, in some shape, form, or fashion. Other issues – church structure, internationalization, credentialing, ministerial qualifications, and others – have appeared multiple times on the agenda as well, but we are still talking about them also.
Please understand my heart. I do not in any way mean to make light of our decision-making process. After all, when the measures are brought to the floor of the General Council and General Assembly, we do with them what the majority of the body wishes within the guidelines of parliamentary procedure. Then, depending on where one lands on the issues, we live with the decision of the body, we grow with it, or we become frustrated by it.
This is not to say that along the way, significant decisions have not been made. There is no doubt that many meaningful and well-thought-out decisions concerning very important matters have been made by the church’s highest governing body.
Hear My Heart
But I want you to hear my heart.
Because of so much “can-kicking,” the cans are now deeply bent and dented. The toes of our shoes are scuffed. And in my opinion, there is no more road left to kick the can down any further. In the meantime, a new generation of mission-focused sons and daughters wag their head, shrug their shoulders, and bemoan our efforts, while asking “how long?”
In the meantime, a new generation of mission-focused sons and daughters wag their head, shrug their shoulders, and bemoan our efforts, while asking “how long?”
How long will we give our General Assemblies and other conferences to polishing our shoes for more “can-kicking”?
How long will we hold pep rallies to prop ourselves up for another two-year period while we simply hit the “reset” button for another round of whatever it is we do with the 24 months between our only opportunity to deal with looming and concerning issues?
As the old preacher Vance Havner put it, how long will we play “marbles with diamonds” and expect God to trust us with His harvest?
Yes, I feel that we have run out of road for kicking cans. But mind you, we have not run out of hope and the desire for God to help us.
...I feel that we have run out of road for kicking cans. But mind you, we have not run out of hope and the desire for God to help us.
A New Road
The 2018 General Assembly laid a new road bed. Not for can-kicking, but for dream-building and opened opportunities for meaningful discussion.
At this past Assembly, God favored us with worship that drew our hearts together in unity. The Heavenly Father also helped us as we dealt with our business. Thirty-three motions and seven resolutions were passed to help posture us for future growth and advancement. Among the measures passed were the creation of focused task forces and study commissions which have already been working with expeditious intention. The General Assembly also passed the measure to conduct the global discussion forums as previously discussed.
I see the forums as an incredible opportunity for the Church of God leadership to hear from the heart of its members, as well as a great vehicle to collect vital information that will assist the Executive Council in preparing what must be a responsible, yet forward-moving agenda for the 2020 General Assembly.
I assure you, the global forums are not a “kick the can down the road” effort, nor or they a waste of time and money. I see the forums as an incredible opportunity for the Church of God leadership to hear from the heart of its members, as well as a great vehicle to collect vital information that will assist the Executive Council in preparing what must be a responsible, yet forward-moving agenda for the 2020 General Assembly.
More information will be forthcoming on the global forums, but in brief, here are the basics:
What: Global Ministry Forums
Why: For the purpose of deliberate and meaningful discussion, dialogue, questions/ answers and time for spiritual insight regarding the importance and understanding of ministry ranks, qualifications, and women in ministry with attention upon the meaning and usage of the title “Bishop.”
Who: Open to all ministers AND members of the Church of God
Where: Twenty-three different global locations, plus a live-streamed session available through the internet. The date and location of each forum will be released soon.
When: All forums are currently scheduled to take place in 2019
How: Logistical factors are as follows:
- Each forum will be hosted and conducted by the General Overseer
- At least one other Executive Committee member will attend at each location
- Surveys seeking pertinent information will be available at each forum and via electronic format.
- The schedule at each forum will allow for brief presentations and follow up responses
- Each forum will last for several hours, allowing for plenty of dialogue
- Scheduling consideration has been given to hopefully accommodate bi-vocational pastors
Knowing or unknowingly. Willingly or unwillingly. As a denomination, we have done our share of kicking cans down the road. Sometimes, it’s all we knew to do, and as bad as I hate to admit it, in some cases, I suppose it’s what we had to do.
But enough is enough.
Let’s study the issue.
Let’s review the issue.
Most importantly, let’s settle on what the Bible says about the issue, remembering that God’s word is the ultimate authority.
And then let’s get on down the road and FINISH this thing for Christ’s sake!!