With work and personal life issues over recent months I've found it tough to write and publish many updates. The death of my mother-in-law, the travel schedule and jump into fall ministries, and trying to find the balance in my life and for my family has been a challenging tightrope walk. Often I find that when I do write something for this forum it sits as a draft and doesn't escape that flight pattern. The moment passes and I'm on to more pressing matters. These are busy times, with lots of living and learning, and plentiful opportunities to love God and love neighbor.
A recurring theme for me over the last year as I've taken on my job/s with the Church has been "How do I best serve a congregation?" Sometimes, or is it often, that has meant explaining to clergy and church leaders that I'm not a salesperson, nor am I an institutional informant, but that I can best serve as a conduit between church and Church (and Church and church). After 25 years serving the local church I understand that a congregation has a life, a history, and a certain trajectory. Over the years I've seen that it is often very helpful to have some outsider to the congregation who is available to assist the church. I know that each day is a new day in following the way Jesus has shown and in living into the fullness of the Body of Christ, so there is a certain potential and possibility for both the congregation and for someone like me! How incredibly fortunate I am to have experienced this with congregations in Georgia, the U.S., and around the world. So, I now bounce between congregations as I serve both church and Church.
Due to my experiences over the years, and the variety of churches and communities I know rather deeply, I tend to have a "big bag of tricks." I don't think in simplistic terms, fad, or program that we'll unleash on every church no matter "where you are" (I'm thinking about a church meeting in a very simple room in Africa and a big steeple church here in the U.S. as I write this). Life, and faith, are rather more complex and nuanced even as God is at work in the Kingdom in the great variety of locales. Yet there are some principles with worship, discipleship, outreach, ministry, and the culture of an organization which seem rather consistent. How fun to plunge deeper into church and community with a contextual sensibility of Good News for the locale! So, with years of experience in congregations in areas of discipleship, programming, and development of the whole life of a church, I'm finding myself useful at the intersection of a missional perspective and an outreach orientation. I'm helping congregations figure out how to escape being a closed system organization before they are so locked in that they feel doomed to finish out the organizational life cycle with ICU and death in the near future. I'm beginning to think of this more as a resurrection ministry as congregations come to life through greater love of their own community. What a joy to help churches experience Easter and Pentecost as an organization!
More stories to come as we craft this new day of the church, and the Church, together...