Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Doing What Comes Naturally

Whoever said that ministry was an easy job – I know people who think it is – need to walk in my shoes for a few days. Ministry, especially a specialized ministry such as church planting and church revitalization is tough. Not a job for the feint of heart. I think I heard that from some people when I chose this path, but somehow knew that I could succeed where others had not. After four years of this life, here is what I have learned: First, the selection tests that ask over and over if I can take rejection need to put me (the candidate) out in a field, make it a driving rain that is cold and wet, take away all food, shelter and supports, leave me there for two weeks and then ask me to volunteer to go back out for a few more days. If I say yes, I will go then perhaps – maybe - I have the stuff it takes to face the adversities that are inherent whenever a church is built from the ground up or when long-time members of a church have (knowingly) voted to go for revitalization. Second: building from the ground up is far easier, because the only person that has to be pleased is the church planter. All who join the church as it is taking root and growing are coming because they like what the planting pastor has to offer. Coming to a church that has been hurt and split more times than the members can count is tough. Rather than listen to my own good sense about what to do and when to do it, I listen to the tired members who have lost hope as they try to go backwards. There was comfort in the way things “used to be” though when these good folk look around and don’t see their friends, they do realize that change has already taken place. Three: Change is unpleasant. The change that has occurred in the church was unpleasant – good friends died, others moved to warmer climates to be with children, still others found comfort in a church that offered a choir that was wonderful (leaving the choir behind they had belonged to) or found a new preacher who seemed to talk directly to them. Whatever the reason, some dear friends left while others stuck it out and continue to stay even if there appears to be little hope of new growth. That is when they call me: When there appears to be no hope. They want me to bring them back to life – to re-vitalize WITHOUT CHANGE because change is uncomfortable, scary, it may not work and we may fail. Darn, I know that. It is scary for me too. I too wish that things could be as they were before. Here is a contemporary example: I approach each new cell phone the same way. It is scary – I knew the old phone and what worked on it and what did not. I knew that I could not text on that phone because it was not “smart” and now church gurus want all of us in the church building field to text a lot – to Twitter – to FB and there are a couple of new terms. I liked it when I was as smart as the phone – somewhat like my congregation liked it when they were in the church of the 1950s. But neither the not-so-smart phone nor the old-time religion is viable. So I lead us forward with only theory to guide me. And God above me, God beside me, God below me, God to my right and God to my left and most of all God in front of me. I could say heaven help us, but I know that heaven already is.

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