Time for everything, including emptiness

As a combined church now we hardly thought about the merger anymore. We were meeting as one church at the Inglewood Civic Centre and we were busy with community engagement. Markets, Carols, Jazz Concerts. Our church was busy, growing and vibrant.

There was however one elephant in the room that we hadn’t dealt with, and that was our permanent location. Pack up and set down 3-4 times a week for church and Toddler Jam was getting old after two or three years and our intention was always to find a permanent place to call home.

Problem was it was taking a lot longer than any of us thought it was, and the pressure was squarely on me to come up with a solution. Lots of different places came and went, and we drew up options for different blocks, The frustration within the church was obvious and the pressure was on to find something.

In the midst of all this I was starting to feel quite detached. Moments of anger where there was normally calm started to surface. Some close friends had to deal with my tongue seemingly saying and expressing frustration over little things. At home there was tenseness, along with a feeling of  emptiness within me.

I had a long chat with my treasurer at the moment and he was pragmatic and helpful. He pointed out I had been at the church at this stage for a long time and had taken very few holidays. In fact I had accumulated 18 years worth of Long Service Leave. At the very least a break was in order.

It felt really guilty taking three months off from Church, particularly at what seemed such an important time. Fortunately I had a very good pastoral team in place with good responsible leadership.

My wife and family drove across the Nullarbor. This was a seminal time. Hours of driving is good for my soul. Once we settled in a borrowed house in Launceston I remember a moment in the shower where everything came to a head. I had just been reading some church emails and I realised I needed to switch off completely. I found myself weeping in the shower and praying. God I cried, I need a break from thinking about church, all the time.

I sent off emails and unsubscribed from Church E-news. I also turned my phone off. However there was one more event that helped as well, in quite a surprising way.

Someone I vaguely knew from Mighty Mens Ministry got into contact with me. He lived in Launceston and wanted me to come and preach at his Gods Squad Church. It would have been going against all the rules to say yes, but I strangely felt I needed to. I spoke to my wife and she said it was up to me, so I said yes.

Rocking up to the Biker Church it was pretty obvious there would be no nice doilies or polished floor boards. The worship time was done through Karaoke style videos. I got up to preach. It was a liberating moment as I felt God’s Spirit bring words, thoughts and passion back to my mind. I basically said what I felt like what I thought they needed. I wasn’t worried about preaching a good sermon, I just wanted to convey what the Spirit wanted me to, that evening, to that group of about 50-60 people.

I had found my joy in preaching again, maybe even in pastoring.