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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

New Thoughts for a New Year

I have not written a post since 2015. The reflective words stopped finding a place here. My life has changed in some pretty big ways. I am no longer a sitting senior pastor with an open call for ministry as long as God and the church want me. I am now an Interim Pastor, serving a wonderful church in transitional need of pastoral guidance for a limited time period. I am living out of a suitcase in the lower level of a vacationing church member's home. A transient guest, though we own a home in North Carolina where Martha lives and commutes up to spend time with me.
Thought #1: tenderly holding the mystery of the church is more compelling than managing the vision and navigating the politics of the structure. The politics of the church remain very evident and visible,   but the power of the church is in the hidden mystery of prayer and personal transformations. I have battled power-interests long enough (and lost a number of those battles) to realize that there is more in life than maintaining control.
Thought #2: the future of the vital church is identifying and welcoming the transformed broken ones, not recruiting the shiny wealthy ones. Budgets are a reality of any church and finances drive what a church can and cannot afford. But the pastor is not the chief fund-raiser in the church, but the shepherd of the flock. In late December for too many years the panic in the board/council was: will there be enough money coming in by year's end to meet the budget or which staff (the largest % of most church budgets) need to be cut...and they eyes turn to the senior pastor. Either get the money or cut the staff. The reality many churches face is that staff costs have increased or remained steady while giving to the general fund has declined with the economy since 2008. More ministry with less dollars. Is there a better model?  I think there is when we can see the Gospel significantly transforming lives. And I have seen no better place than in jail. Churches need to much more intentionally link up with jail release programs to bring transformed health into congregations that can get choked by the language of constituent expectations and preferences.
Thought #3: I hope to spend my next years finding, identifying and celebrating best practices of churches partnering with jail ministries around the country.

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