Do As I Say
Doing and saying should line up—at least that is what common wisdom suggests! “If you are going to talk the talk, then you should also walk the walk,” is another way of getting at the importance of aligning our speech and our actions. Thus, as disciples of Jesus, we often press toward holding a consistency with our words and our deeds. But I wonder if there is something deeper at work that could potentially transform our common understandings about the correlation of our words and our deeds—of our beliefs and our actions. Some years ago theologian Miroslav Volf published an essay entitled “Theology for a Way of Life.” He argues that what we believe and what we practice matter. Beliefs and practices matter not merely because they are both important (though they are important!). They matter because they are related to each other in some deep, integral way.
Beliefs actually shape what we do; our practices shape what we really believe. In thinking about the role of leaders in congregations, Volf’s insights become particularly stark when we reckon with the reality that what we do actually reveals what we believe is important!
For instance, I can say that I value the opinions of others, that it is important to pray for God’s guidance, that the Bible is really our guide for life and conduct. However, if I don’t practice valuing other people’s point of view, neglect to practice prayer as a church leader, or ignore the wisdom of Scripture, then something is out of alignment. Our actions disclose what we really believe!
A sober exercise for congregational leaders might be to look at how much time is spent doing what at your next meeting. How you spend your time in that meeting may well give you and your co-leaders great insight into what is really operating as your belief system. Christianity is not merely a collection of deep truths about God; it is a way of life that governs all of our being and doing. Nowhere is that more important for the church than in the ordinary practices of congregational leaders.
May God give you insight into what you practice and believe!
Miroslav Volf, “Theology for a Way of Life” in Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life (Eerdmans, 2002).