Focusing on What We Have In Common


Presbytery of Chicago Mission Statement 2023

Pursuing worship, service, and communities of justice, we are the Presbytery of Chicago, flourishing together by relating people, neighbors, and churches to one another in Christ Jesus.

I had a wonderful day preaching at First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville on Sunday. The gracious and hospitable congregation ushered in worship with singing, clapping, strong liturgy, and lots of children! Worship was fun! Afterward I had lunch with two session members. We discussed their anti-racism work and their work on gender-equality. Both efforts are strong, challenging, and difficult. But Libertyville has the spirit and stamina to keep at it. I’m very proud of what this congregation is doing.

What became clear in our conversation is that there is similar work being done in other congregations in the presbytery. Similar, but not exact.

In the new mission statement of the presbytery, churches are challenged to be connected to one another. It is great when congregations reach out to one another and find common ground and ways to work together. Perhaps the presbytery can play a more significant role in connecting congregations while amplifying the mission and ministry they are doing. The challenge will be to connect congregations who may not share the exact same values and mission but have enough overlap to work together on projects. How do we create space for difference as we work together in ministry?

In the book, The Persuaders, Anand Girdhariadas interviews Loretta Ross and talks about her concept of Circles of Influence. Ross breaks down relationships based on the percentage of values groups have in common. She talks about the 90 percenters who share much more in common than the 50 percenters or even the 25 percenters. But one mistake all these groups find themselves doing is focusing on what they don’t have in common. “Instead of focus on vast areasof overlap, they fixated on the divergence. They spend too much time trying to turn people into 100 percenters, which is unnecessary.” Groups must learn to work together in areas they overlap, and not find division in other areas.

What does this look like in the Presbytery of Chicago? For example, what if the people who focus on Creation Ministry could also connect with those who focus on anti-racism work? What if those focused on church vitality and church growth also connected with New Worshiping Communities? These groups do not share 100% of mission with one another, but they have enough in common to support one another and move the dial on their work.

What ministry and mission do you have in common with other congregations or organizations in the presbytery? How can connections be established with churches that may not be perfectly aligned, but have enough in common to support one another in ministry? Perhaps the greatest challenge is to focus on what we share and have in common and focus less on areas of conflict or separation.

Rev. Craig M. Howard