I’m still, kind of, a new pastor. As part of my seminary education I was vetted as a “church planter”, then the district president whose district I was called to thought that I should apply those skills in an effort to conduct a renewal program. I was called to an ancient/stately church in York, Pa. that just cried out for a renewal effort and so here I am.
Now that I’m approaching five years here, I have a few lessons that I thought I should share. As a disclaimer this is not a shot at anyone or any group, simply observations things that I would recommend to anyone else who might be starting a renewal.
This is in no particular order, unedited, but should be sufficiently readable for anyone interested:
One thing I would do if I was to do another Renewal is to sit everyone down together, right at the beginning, employees, leaders, EVERYONE and make it very clear. If I’m being called here to do a renewal, you need to understand right here, right now, this is not about you. It is about you supporting what is going to happen, it’s about you (no matter what you are) making sacrifices, putting in extra time, going the extra mile, supporting efforts that you may not “like”, making an extra effort for new people. Agreeing that there needs to be small groups and you need to lead them. If you don’t feel “qualified” then agreeing to put in the time to learn about discipling and actively discipling. Making the extra effort to invite people and to do “faith sharing moments”. If you are not going to do this, right here/right now, then say so and the “Renewal” will stop right here. This will be, at least, a three year commitment [I would give them the slips that I gave to the Discipling Group.] Sign them and commit to doing what you’re supposed to be doing. If these things don’t happen, then it ends right there.
No fussing because you have to push a little harder, you might be inconvenienced, you might have to adjust to different things. If you do not understand at the outset that this is not about you and is about team, it is about the Body of Christ, then own up to it now and forget it. It’s not about you, it’s never been about you, but you seem to think it is. It is about the Body of Christ, it is about making the church an effective witness to Jesus and effective discipling group of Christian disciples.
You also understand that you are there to be cheerleaders, for the pastor, for new members, for those who have stepped out to do new things, those who are about making Christian disciples. Yes there are other things that are necessary, but the celebration is for those who are going out and saving the dying, reaching out to those in a dying world who would otherwise be lost for eternity. Those who have a conscience and truly understand that they will be used by God to reach those who are lost, who cannot stand the idea that someone may be lost because of what they did not do. Those who understand that God is never going to have a problem with those who make a good faith effort to reach the lost, but will hold them accountable who refuse to make the effort because they don’t think they’re ready or capable or yada-yada. Those who understand that when God calls us we are to respond, not when we think we’re ready. Those who understand that their procrastination, they’re phoney perfectionism is just an excuse. It’s not a virtue, it’s a sinful, straight from the pit of Hell cop-out.
That they will ask and have an open minded conversation about things they “don’t like or bothers them”. Sure if things are being done arbitrarily or capriciously then it’s certainly acceptable to question, but if there’s a lot of thought and research, then accept it, do what is necessary to adjust, but don’t sit there and refuse to make necessary adjustments in order to make the church more effective and more welcoming.
If you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say it, forget about it. Seems that the MO is that no one does anything, because if someone does do something, it’s open season for people to pick apart the other person’s efforts. If you haven’t done something about it and it’s been hanging for too long and someone has done something, then you are to say how wonderful it is that person is doing, that you are so pleased that something’s being done that should have been done a long time ago.
There has to be an understanding that we are not here to celebrate the same old/same old. I am only interested in celebrating those who have stepped out in faith, have taken up the gauntlet, have taken a chance. I’m going to be much faster to celebrate someone who took the chance, even if it might be sloppy, and I’m not going to celebrate the person who just criticizes and doesn’t have a better idea. A spirit of criticism of gossiping is sin, it’s not acceptable. If you’re not going to find a way to do it better, then you need to keep your mouth shut about anyone else who is actually doing.
So, that’s it, so far. Again these are various lessons not meant to impugn anyone or whine and complain, but I think that lessons that I’ve learned that should be shared with others. I will continue to blog on this, infrequently and probably incompletely. If anyone is interested and wants to set up a dialogue on it, I would welcome the opportunity.