These are trying times, aren't they? They have been trying for the United Methodist Church for the past 30 years. Population has increased and church membership for our denomination (in the United States) has decreased. Not a good sign. And while there are troves of information for why this is the case (I would suggest some good Lovitt Weems, Will Willimon, or whatever flavor of prophet appeals to you)
Well, I've been looking over my notes from the retreat this past weekend. If you'd like more information on what I'm involved with, check out this page. Mike Slaughter and Adam Hamilton have taken it upon themselves to help train the next generation of leaders. For their leadership, sacrifice, and time, I thank them.
With a little time to just ingest everything, I'm starting to think I can do this. Do what, you say?
Change this church.
Last time I sat in front of the Board of Ordained Ministry they asked me why I wrote what I did in my Ordination Papers. So strong is my desire to go where God wants me, I can rarely pursue a direction. If someone asked, "where do you see yourself in 10 years?" the correct response is apparently whatever is where I think God wants me. But simply in saying, "This is where I se myself - at such-and-such type church" I feel I am negating other wonderful possibilities. For example, there are those that say if you want to become a District Superintendent, you have to do this, this, and this within your career. If you want to become a Bishop, you need to do this, this, and this. (you get the idea). Well, what if I just want to go where God wants me? From one angle you could say this is a wondeful attempt to remain flexible and open to the Holy Spirit.
But another angle might say I have no drive. No gumption. I don't care. I'm just flying willy-nilly wherever the Church desires to put me. That was the reasoning behind the question the first time. I wrote it poorly in my ordination papers. It said something to the effect of "I don't care if I make big ripples or little ripples, as long as I'm in God's will." Which the Board of Ordained Ministry (committee that determines how ready I am to be a pastor) decided this was a problem. What I meant was that if I'm where God wants me, it doesn't have to be the biggest church in the state or the smallest - I'll be living out my call. Would that not be the biggest ripples I can make for the Kingdom of God?
How many Christians (humans) want the biggest, the best, the most influence, the most fame, the most money, the biggest book lists, the best preacher, the best counselor, the best teacher, the bestbestbestbestbest of everything in life? In the past, I couldn't say I wanted the "best" of any of those things because I felt to claim those would be to maybe push in a direction God wouldn't want me to go.
Those days are over. I do feel that, now, I can claim that God has great things in store for me - and I don't feel a bit of regret in saying that. It is time for me to not see mediocrity as a possibility for God's Kingdom or a place for my call to end. There are some places in life that people would consider mediocre. Or a stepping stone. I'll let God make those decisions. Rather than just letting the best happen to me, I'm going to go for broke. Its either heaven or hell for me, not because I can sit back and let God do amazing things, but because I can be an active witness and I will trust and affirm that Christ will work me towards perfection.
The best is yet to come. And I cannot allow my affirmation of God's ability to work in all situations hamper my ability to strive for more.
Its quite silly when you think about it - I had a conversation with Jesus the other day and he emphasized to me that I've been putting up with a lot because it is just easier. I sit in perhaps one of the "best" positions of my conference and try not to ruffle feathers. Just trying to get by is going to get me in a lot of trouble. I'll always rationalize it though. ya know?
Didn't prepare enough for that sermon? No worries... God used it anyway.
Didn't take that chance to challenge those Christians to stop sinning and start loving? No worries... God planted a seed, I'm sure.
Didn't affirm someone's humanity and bridge that gap between human and God? I'm sure my apathy will somehow work into that person's testimony to the lack of social justice.
Didn't live into the Christian life I'm preaching about? Eh, I'm only human. They shouldn't put pastors up on such high pedastals.
Whatever christianese I'm spouting to myself about how God is working anyway is the biggest load of bull straight from either a.) a sinful human who has chosen an easy path or b.) a demon whispering in my ear that I can't amount to more.
Where am I going to start with changing how the church works? I'm starting with myself. Help me. Hold me accountable. Don't allow me to slip into mediocrity.
I have several things to work on and I'll hopefully pull them from my YPN notes and share them on this blog. In a way thats fun and interesting, of course.