We actually went through one more pretty serious conflict, but the truth is some lessons had been learnt, confront quickly! This time I confronted quickly and well. I also communicated a lot more, through the diaconate, and eventually to the church. Thus there was a lot less stress, at least on me. It did pain the diaconate at the time, but they helped my burden, and we got through it. There has actually been some, a little, reconciliation with that person since.
The Lord then gave me a verse, as clear as day, Acts 9.31 “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”
That has been our story from that moment on. The issue of the constitution went through eventually, my pastorship was not really up for discussion, and I set about delegating away a lot of the authority and responsibility for the ministry. The fact is, when we instituted our new constitution, it helped shape our culture. Something I continually say, even now, to people about out church, “in our church we match authority with responsibility”. If we trust you and make you a leader in church, we expect that you will make good decisions. We want to see your giftings flourish. We wont be managing your ministry, but we will keep you accountable for results.
On the church front we started to move towards selling all our property. Our newly formed leadership team started to think through the process of how we would do it. Eventually we asked the church to give us permission to do this as we saw fit. To the churches credit they said yes, go away and do it. So we did.
As Toddler Jam (our movement to music program for toddlers) started to grow, we experienced some real growth occur in the church. My dad always said to me, “every church needs a dynamic for growth. Something that will help it grow”. Dad said, “while people will stay at church if there is good preaching and good worship and good programs for their kids, they wont come to church because of that”.
Like a business, we might be offering great service, but if no one knows we exist, no one will ever experience that. Toddler Jam gave, and gives, our church a public face in the community. In those early days when I felt like we were replanting the church, it gave us hope we were doing more than plodding along. We actually had people from the community become Christians, get baptised and become active members of our church, not people from other churches, people from non-church backgrounds. This is what we had hoped for.
We felt like we had come out of a dark cloud, and while there were scars from that, we could now focus our attention on other people, not ourselves. The natural bent for all of us is to care about ourselves first, Jesus recognised that. So the same is true of a church, it will think of its members first! I placed this quote on our Church directory, “The church is not about you, you are the church. The Church is there to serve those who are not yet part of the church”.
I believe with all my heart that the Senior Pastors role is to keep that at the forefront. Evangelism committee? Nooooo….., evangelism should permeate every activity, every group in the church. Thats why changing our music style and worship service is important. I don’t advocate necessarily a full on ‘seeker sensitive model’. But the method should not get in the way of the message. The Message of Jesus is too important to put it into irrelevant phrases and boring old fashioned music. I also believe God is a God of emotion, and love and joy and grief and the whole gamut of human emotions. I had come from a tradition which says we don’t get happy in church…seriously.
One of the key signs of a church is a church that laughs during the service, real laughter, and are happy to be there. We had finally turned that corner and were starting to experience that.