July 13th, 2015


Wrestling with the angel

Church Council last night was long and sometimes contentious. It was also well-attended and productive. People are wrestling with mission and ministry. They are trying to figure out how to address real needs. There's some negativity, but also a lot of engagement. On balance, this is all to the good. I want to encourage it to continue.

Renewal is not a program. It's not a technique. Renewal is a refocusing on right relationships: relationship with God, relationship with each other, relationship with the poor, relationship with the lost, relationship between the generations, relationship between the church and the community.

Too many congregations, like ours, have spent years living on the spiritual energy of the past. People have assumed that all the important stuff would always be there, even if they were too busy to contribute much -- and when they have thought about contributing, too often they have reckoned "contribution" as merely "paying their dues" monetarily or in passive attendance. They have also assumed that "ministry" is what you paid somebody to do. And so, like people who have been too busy to reinvest in their marriage or family, they are surprised when the signs of decay become unavoidable.

At that point, either in a marriage/family or in a congregation, things either accelerate toward breakup and blame or the people involved start the long, painful process of rediscovering how to properly value things (starting with each other). I see EFUMC doing the latter, and that encourages me. I want to support that, help it along.

I've been here nine years, and I have been worried for the last year that my effectiveness might be wearing away. But if we're going to actually quit patching and get to fixing, then maybe I've finally been here long enough to do some real, long-term good for this congregation. Instead of going through the usual routine of hello-I'm-the-new-pastor-look-at-all-the-cool-things-we-can-do that just glosses over long-term problems, maybe I have finally achieved sufficient credibility and garnered enough trust to help people see the truth of their situation so they can find what God wants them to be. Maybe the really important work is just beginning.