January 31 Reflections

A significant piece of my making the decision to stay at First Reformed and not take the position at Maurice Reformed Church was the reality of the last three churches that I have left. In each of those situations major crises and breakups occurred after I left for another position. I realize that it is not totally my fault that these breakups occurred, but I have wondered what led to this. There are common pieces in some of them but totally different causes in others. I think a piece that I play is that I tend to overfunction. Go way beyond a reasonable job description. The problem is this if I overfunction it allows others to underfunction. Then when I leave who takes up the slack of my overfunctioning. And who comes next might not do this, in fact might not do any of the things that I thought so important. So, I want to show up differently in these next years to provide health that sustain a time that I might leave, and new chapter begins. As I reflected during the time of decision making and the time since there are three things that I believe are vital for long term sustainable health.

#1: Embed grace in the Body of Believers. This means that the principle of “there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, there is nothing I can do to make God love me less, God loves me in this moment as much as it is possible for an infinite God to love” would be embedded in the hearts of people at First Reformed. With grace embedded choosing to live in certain ways would ensue acceptance would prevail not judgmentalism; celebration of gifts not shaming would be the catalyst for ministry; encouragement not a critical spirit would lighten the climate; openness to the Holy Spirit instead of close-minded norms would be present; we would choose relationships over rules. These are just a few examples.

#2: Strengthen Leadership. Strong leaders are needed for any organization to thrive and grow. Leadership does not mean dominance…or bossing people around…or getting my way. Leadership is about people being firm in their identity and knowing the mission that the church is seeking to live into. Then to lead in that way despite sabotage or resistance. That is why it is so important to use Jesus as our model. We have been looking at this together on Sunday mornings. Jesus knew who he was and what he was called to do. No one could deter him from that mission.  

#3: Learn from our past…live in the present…with an eye to God’s preferred future. Any organization that has been around for a long time could default to living in the past and spend all their time thinking about the good old days. Any organization that does that as their guiding principle will fold up and die. I believe that churches that do this will cease to be the living breathing body of Christ and be turned into a museum, where once there was life. The Good News does not change, but we must adapt to the present day and present it in a way that speaks into the hearts and lives of those far from God.

These are three things that I want to explore with you in the years ahead as we anticipate what God has in store for us. This coming Sunday we are going to think together about continuing to live out our mission in the face of sabotage and resistance as we see the crowds want Jesus to do something other than what he was called to do. Maybe it happens in your life as well. People, even well-meaning people, say “do this” or “do that” and you know it is not you and what you are called to do. Some passages to read: Luke 4:38-44; Psalm 33; Mark 1:35-39.

Grace upon Grace,