Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sometimes You Don't Know You're There Until You Arrive.

Over a year ago I was haunted by the sense that we were missing something at Trinity. Well, not missing something really. Not missing something because our life here is full of good stuff...great ministries...all sorts of activites... There is a "buzz" about this congregation and all the ways it reaches out and serves people in the name of Christ.

I was haunted, though, by this sense that we are too busy...doing too much... "shooting" at too many targets. We were doing good stuff for God, I could see. But were we doing the right things? Did we really understand the essential stuff God wants us to be doing?

So I started walking around muttering "I think we need to do less and do it better."

I started walking around saying, "We need to welcome people better, connect new people with serving teams and small groups, and figure out how we can help grow disciples."

I had this sense we were missing something.

Then, in the middle of the summer, our staff went up to Chicago for a two-day retreat. On the train I started reading Thom Rainer's book "Simple Church." I started nodding...I felt like he had been inside my head (now there is a scary thought!). Rainer and his co-author, Eric Geiger, talk about how churches can lose their focus -and power- as they try to do too much and move in too many directions at once. Wow!

This past Sunday afternoon our leaders gathered for our annual Leadership Retreat. We talked about how we do so much...but sometimes take our eyes off the primary tasks of welcoming people, connecting new people to the Christian community in a thoughtful and loving way, and making disciples.

In our conversation we stumbled around a bit. Got caught on a point or two here and there.

But those of us in the room realized where we were: God is calling us to be a congregation focused on the challenge of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

And we are going to do that in three basic ways:

Growing in God (worship, prayer, sacraments, Bible study).
Growing Together (small groups, Bible studies, serving teams).
Growing in Service (serving, giving, leading).

We'll figure out the details as we live into the future. We'll ask every planning group and ministry team to make sure what they are doing fuels those three, primary ministries...those goals. And if something doesn't "fit" then we won't do it.

It's exciting. And a little bit scary. And a relief...as we give one another permission not to keep trying to do everything for everyone.

We didn't know we were going to end up standing here. We've been plugging along for God, doing great things for God, but I think a whole bunch of us have had this feeling that we were missing something. Doing too much. Too busy. Not focused on the right things that can make big differences in the lives of people.

So here we are. Simple Church. Making disciples. Growing in God, Growing Together, and Growing in Service.

Sometimes you don't know you're there until you arrive. And here we are - at the start of a new adventure with God and one another!

4 comments:

Mr said...

Mark .... I enjoy your candor and your vibe and most of all your direct comments on truth and goodness ... wish we could enjoy your company as well ... when Sandy and I come back to Indiana .... we would love to see you and your wife. So we can compare grandchildren stories .... another marvel of getting older, wiser and as so eloquently stated ... knowing when you have arrived.

hoolie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hoolie said...

I feel the same Mark, I think that is why I am drawn to the contemplative church traditions right now. Simplify, be present in our serving, glorify God in all areas of our lives. Seems so easy, just create a sacred space for things that nourish and give us life but it often feels easier, and feeds our need to feel worthwhile, to add more to the day than to feel substance to a day that has long spaces of quiet mixed in with times of focused doing.

Rona said...

There are a couple of things you should know about Bob Tanger other than his motorcycle collection. First, he is one of the most devout Christians and fishers of men I have ever met - he dragged me back from the deep water of despair. I have heard him quietly ask many of his garage visitors to church, and know he sees goodness in each person he meets every day. He believes that every person is worthy of God's love. By his example, I have learned to look for the love of Christ in everyone. Second - he hates iced tea.