There is no need to be in charge. In fact being in charge may very well not get you what you want.
I lead a church, have done for over 22 years. I also lead the Annual Baptist Pastors Conference. Recently our church hosted the incredibly wonderful ‘Whisper’ conference.
In these three spaces I have needed to be flexible with authority. In my church we allocate responsibility to be matched with authority. If you take the responsibility for an event, the authority to creatively lead in that space is given to you. Not as a right, but a privilege. My young adults pastor organised the Whisper conference. He did a lot of the heavy lifting of organising teams. It was an incredibly well run and functioning event. Around 250 people from over 25 churches attended from all over Perth. It was our vision and our heart. His creativity, passion and skill led the event better than I could have.
If I had exercised my right to be in charge, the event would still have happened but with none of the skill and nuance my young adults pastor brought to it. I assisted him, resourced him, but ultimately let him lead.
With the annual Baptist Pastors Conference I work under the authority of our Denomination and particularly our leader. He gives me a lot of freedom. A benefit of having been involved in the conference for over fifteen years. And having his trust. If there is something he wants tweaked or changed, it is my role to implement this. I am a person under authority.
In our church I am responsible for the key leadership direction and vision. It is not a role I take lightly. There are times I need to make decisions which may not be popular with everyone. But leading is not about giving people what they want, but what they need. Often people cannot see what I can see, they are just not in that space. And that is okay.
Being able to be flexible with authority, understand where you fit in, and what is best for the kingdom, that is the fine line, the radical middle, the balance I try to walk along.
This morning I did something I don’t often do. I came down to my local coffee shop to wait for a friend. While here I did some work on the church website, sent out a circular email and updated our facebook site.
I also had a long macc. I always get disappointed when I don’t have a coffee from here, they make a great coffee.
While sitting here outside on one of their funky hispter benches I have had three seperate people come and chat. People from Church, people from Toddler Jam, people with mutual friends. They all stopped and chatted.
It was a nice experience. Having been a part of this community for over 20 years, I know a lot of people. And a lot of people know me. Serving on the local primary school P and C, running Toddler Jam. You know people, and are known.
I was reflecting on the number one reason people come to and stay at a church. It is not the music, it is not the preaching, and it is actually not only the kids programs, although that is huge.
A number of folk told me this week the number one reason is because someone said hello. Not someone who is part of the structured welcome team, but just a regular person. We are all craving real human contact. We all want to be noticed. We all want community.
This is mine.
In my family of origin there were a couple of non-negotiable rules. We were in church on Sunday and there was no television allowed on Sundays. School on Monday morning was always a little awkward as you pretended to know what the other kids were talking about when they discussed the latest video on Countdown or the footy from Match of the Day. It was interesting to see the change in my own family as we grew up. I am not quite sure when the rules changed, but they did. Church was still not an option, but Sunday night drama and comedy, especially on the ABC, became part of our diet.
Its not easy to say no to our children in these days of Sunday sport and birthday parties invitations. Time and time again the number one wish parents have for their children is that they have friends and social acceptance. There has been negotiation and navigation for us as parents. We do not want our children to miss the social formation which they need. Neither do we wish for them to miss out on the heart of the Christian experience. Gathering together with other believers to enjoy the presence of Christ, to hear the word, to fellowship. It is a beautiful discipline that should not be easily revoked. Our children believe and embrace that we do, not necessarily that we say.
As a Pastor it is easy to write this off as the ravings of someone with a horse in the race. Of course I would say this, I want people in the pews. And there is no question I desire for my church to have vibrant and full services. So it is catch 22 for me to even post this.
However the prophetic part of my nature points to the principle that we reap what we sow. It is tough enough as it is to raise a family and have teenagers and young adults embrace Christ and His Church. When we by action give the message that Church is an add on, something to do when it doesn’t conflict with other more important activities, the message will be received and acted upon.
As Pastors and leaders our past hurts will flavour our reaction to present ministry situations.
If we have been criticised, betrayed, let down and disappointed by people, this will cause us to be insecure, reactionary and untrusting in present ministry situations.
If there has been a battle fought and won in a particular area of ministry, when that discussion comes up again we may very well be overtly defensive about it. The pain inflicted by fighting that battle may still be real and present. So we shore up our defenses. It feels like we are being attacked all over again, even if we are not.
The ability to reframe your perspective to your present situation is crucial. The past battles have been done. Its time to trust, hope and believe again.
My church is going through a significant time of growth at the moment. Every week we have people checking us out, coming in and enjoying our times together. We are even seeing people with little or no church background come to our Sunday services. It really is a significant period we are going through.
What I am keenly aware of though is that in order for people to become part of your community, they need to become part of your community. At Inglewood Church we believe we are offering real times of significant spiritual input and opportunities to worship and experience a sense of God’s presence together.
But in our increasingly marginalised and insular society people are still looking for what they have always looked for, friendship and community. Part of being a church is having space and time for relationships to deepen as we journey together on a spiritual journey. Learning, being challenged, serving.
If you haven’t seen the news there was a mistake made at this years Oscars when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope and the wrong winner was announced for the most prestigious award of the night, best movie.
It reminded me of the many mistakes I have made from the pulpit. At times I have had the congregation in uproarious laughter for all the wrong reasons, and to my embarrassment. Sometimes I have had no idea why they are even laughing!
To laugh at oneself is human just as to make mistakes is human. All too often in Churches we take ourselves far too seriously. I have found self depreciating humour to be the best type to help people be at ease. With themself. With you. And with your church.
If someone finds it hard to laugh at themself it may be indication that they are not feeling that safe or secure. I am sure God loves me. I am equally sure that all my worries and insecurities will ultimately prove in the eternity of time to be perhaps something I shouldn’t have given so much emotional energy to.
Mistakes are part of life. I hope I can laugh at my own, and even laugh along when my church laughs at them!
One of the values of our church is to be ‘generational’. We are a values driven church, which means our values determine our decisions.
I am convinced that this generation coming up will do greater things than the one which has come before. They are different. Anxious and in many ways not thinking they will have it better than their parents. Technology has in many ways failed to deliver what it promised, yet it is something they embrace and utilise with a far greater degree of comfort than any generation before them.
As a church we are committed to giving young people real responsibility, real authority and real weight to their ministry. I don’t believe in tokenism. There needs to be a sense that they could fail, otherwise what is the point?
And I believe they will rise up. They have a sense of justice and goodness and self awareness that my generation did not have. They believe strongly in authenticity and are not tied in any way to organisational dependency.
The flame will pass on.