On the Journey: Sabbatical Report Part 3 – Leadership and Living the Mission Together

Over the past few months, we’ve been sharing insights about ministry challenges and opportunities relating to how we connect with people who are not part of a faith community.  The things we’ve learned, heard, and read have implications for how we do ministry together and what leadership looks like in the midst of change.

Some of the things we read and heard were encouraging because they reflect practices and values we are already trying to lean into: creating places for conversation, giving permission to try new things, and breaking down as much red tape as possible to stay focused on the mission.

Other pieces were important reminders of what I and the rest of our leadership team can work to improve, and what we as a congregation together can be a part of.

Being clear about our mission.  We talked a bit last month about how essential it is to communicate what we’re here for, and what that calls from us together.  Sometimes we lose track of the ultimate purpose for which God calls us together: growing to become more like Jesus together, bearing witness to God’s love and grace in our actions and words, and inviting others into this journey of discipleship.  We’re working on how to communicate that in fewer words, but more importantly, our Diaconate and I are working on how to encourage us to look at everything we do through this lens.

Being clear about what won’t change.  We’ve talked a lot about how things have to change, if we are going to be faithful to the mission God gives us.  It goes a lot deeper than what kind of worship music we sing together.  But some things don’t change: God’s character and faithfulness, the heart of the mission we’ve been given.  We aren’t going to forget our values or our heritage, not just as Baptists, but as Christians in a stream of the history of the work of the Holy Spirit that goes back to the first disciples.  We can draw strength, encouragement and wisdom from those who have gone before us, even as God calls us into new ways of living out what it means to be church in this day and age.

The importance of grief.  But that doesn’t mean change is easy, or that it comes without loss.  Sometimes the new things that God calls us into means letting go, like Abraham and Sarah who left their  homeland and family to move into something totally new.  Sometimes it redefines what success looks like, as Paul endured hardship and opposition wherever he went, yet God used him and those with him to help foster communities of disciples across the Mediterranean.  It’s okay to grieve that the ways of church are changing, and that change can be hard.  But it also calls us to come back to seek God’s purposes and ways, to actively trust in God’s leading as we follow into this new time.

Leadership as empowering the community for ministry, not doing ministry for the community.  This is critical, because it calls on the pastor, leadership teams, and ministry leaders to be focused on how we can encourage, create space for, and give responsibility to others in living out their mission and sense of calling.  The flip side is that it is us together as a community who also hear that discipleship is a call from God to carry our faith into the world, into all of our relationships.  In a context where we can no longer rely on people coming to us (our location), we have to ask how we will use our time and gifts to connect with others in the community, as God opens up opportunities.  This is the time we are in, with its opportunities and challenges.  But God is faithful, and as we remember and celebrate the stories where we experience God at work, we can be encouraged to continue on the journey together.

Blessings on the Way,

Pastor Brian