This past weekend I was reminded of how frustrated many of our churches are these days. I sometimes think I create bogeyman in my head when it comes to the troubles we are facing as a denomination; I pay too close attention to the numbers and the seeming struggles of my brothers and sisters in ministry. I want so badly to help them.
Despite what one woman said to a member of my team recently “I know your church is winning.” I don’t believe there can be winners and losers, at least not in the way she was intending. Not when 96% of Vancouver Island remains unchurched. Christ is big enough for all our churches, and then some, to “win” if winning involves seeing people deepen in their faith and serve their communities.
You see, this past weekend I attended an event with 19 others churches, each church had a minister and 2-3 other people. I may be mistaken, I didn’t take a poll, but it sure seemed to me that I could guess who the minister was at most of the tables based solely on how low their shoulders sagged and how deep the bags under their eyes were. They needed the worship portions of this conference as much as they needed the educational part, that’s for sure. We were reminded, and all of us needed the reminder, that the church is, at it’s best, a place of faith, hope, love, mercy, peace amidst chaos, and compassion. It’s difficult to accept that we, church leaders and pastors, needed to be reminded of such things.
I wonder if the folks in the early church ever felt so distraught and defeated?
When they were being fed to lions and stoned what was going through their minds? Or the minds of those who witnessed these events?
It was strange that I felt like a dork for being upbeat, for looking forward to the future of my community of faith, for enjoying the presence and perspective of the non-ordained folks who accompanied me?
Was it strange of us to have so much fun?
I don’t believe it was.
Jesus wants to be in touch with us and I know that many people pray, when in a group, that Jesus would join them in their conversation, but the truth is Jesus is always right there, we just open ourselves to him sometimes, and when we do he is waiting with nice cold lemonade.
Some people asked me how I accomplish everything I do, do I ever sleep or see my wife and kids? Do the people who work with me? Do I have any friends?
Here’s what I realize, and it’s deceptively simple but involves letting go of some control. I work less than many people do. I work with laser focus. I spend an inordinate of time praying and reading the bible (and all sorts of other stuff). I spend very little time worrying about the future of the congregation. I try, and don’t always succeed, to enjoy the moment. I spend little time on what I am no good at and work to spend even less time at such aspects of church life.
St. Andrew’s Duncan has a flexible culture which permits me, and the whole staff, to try new things and to do what we are best at rather than frustratingly trying to do what we are incapable of. As a group we are laid back and trusting God will act just as he has promised he would. The staff and I have great latitude of decision making not so that we will get big headed and egotistical but so that we can focus on what energizes us and those around us, and so that we can follow our passions. Passionate people can do great things, even if they do few things.
Of course, there are times we need to knuckle down like when I run intervals on the track to improve my speed, but more often than not I am blessed with the ability to follow the Spirit of God, just as I mostly run on a path in the woods.
At the root of it is our faith in God to come through on his promises. I trust wholly in 1 Corinthians 15:18 because only God can do what needs to be done, not my team and I, and not your team and you, God will have to do it, we have to let him, the art is to listen and obey and have fun doing it. Grace and peace to you all.