As a pastor, not surprisingly, I often view my congregation through a theological lens, and I’ve recently challenged my congregation to join me. In a world that promotes division through competition and having the one correct perspective to a challenge, I’ve invited them to think more deeply about our collective mission as a congregation and how their differing individual gifts and passions help to make up that collective whole.

Naming Perspectives

I was inspired to think about this in new ways while reading GodViews: The Convictions That Drive Us and Divide Us by Presbyterian pastor and denominational leader Jack Haberer. Recognizing various ways of living out a missional vision, he names five different GodViews:

  • Confessionalist – seeking “to proclaim, practice, and preserve the truth” (p. 98);
  • Devotionalist – seeking, as the Shorter Catechism says, “to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever;”
  • Ecclesiast – investing time, talent, and resources to build up the church and the body of Christ;
  • Altruist – orienting “lives in service of the needy” (p. 99);
  • Activist – seeking “to challenge the status quo; to expose the indifference of those wielding power in society and culture; and to stand resolutely against injustice, the diminishment of persons, and the destruction of the environment” (p. 100).

Sometimes it helps to have some labels for clarifying theological passions. Thankfully, Haberer does not intend to rank or prioritize these, nor does he desire to trap people without giving them room to grow.

“Sometimes it helps to have some labels for clarifying theological passions.”

Perspectives Working Together

Through the lens of GodViews, Haberer hopes to promote both self-awareness about one’s convictions and greater understanding of the convictions of others. He also hopes to instill a holistic approach regarding our missional visions. Whether as individuals, as parish families, or as an ecumenical body of Christ, we need these differences to be whole, and we do best when we express our appreciation for what each brings to the work.

Discovering and Leading

The challenge for a congregational leader, then, is to open a conversation that might allow these ideas and differences to come to life. Perhaps groups might study the book together. Perhaps a pastor might interview key leaders. Or, a focus group might be an ideal setting for explorations that could lead to new insight into how these “GodViews” are at work in the congregation. Through any one of these practices, exemplars of the various GodViews within the congregation could be identified and thanked for their passion, as well as encouraged to keep exercising their vision for the good of the whole. No matter how you do it, good leadership and a clear sense of purpose starts with theological reflection and listening to God at work in others.