As I write I am sitting aboard the Spirit of Tasmania II after a whirlwind visit to Victoria to celebrate my daughter’s 22nd birthday.
We came across on Tuesday evening and spent much of Wednesday driving as we visited the Mornington Fusion centre where we had lived for five years before travelling up to Bendigo to be with Maddi.
Seeing my little girl now all grown up and returning to Victoria, where I led the Fusion team for five years put me in a reflective mode, particularly in light of what I have been thinking about as I prepare for Sunday.
There has been a lot written about the church and what it is, or what it isn’t and mostly people are responding to the institutions they have encountered.
One of the features of institutions is that they are built for permanence. They were initially established in response to an idea or vision someone had, and then they take on a life of their own, and sometimes the idea or vision can go missing but the institution trundles on.
In order to lead we need to take a look at the original visions or ideas that built our institutions. This is definitely true of the institutions of church.
Choose your enemies carefully ’cause they will define you
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend
While Donald McGavran is not exactly my enemy, the paradigm he proposed definitely is because it produced institutions shaped by quite a different vision than I understand what the church is meant to be focussing on.
I’ve been a pastor for a couple of weeks, and I’m slowly getting used to the idea. One of the things I am appreciating about our church is the way in which we are committed to wrestling with what God is saying to us. Part of that is a current commitment to explore a range of bible passages to see what they might be saying to us as a church.
This week we were looking at Acts 2, and as I engaged with the chapter something hit me.MActs 2 chronicles the establishment of the Christian church, and as it does one thing is obvious: the church is a fellowship.
From the start, the church was birthed when the disciples “were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1) and the first act, inspired by the Spirit, was that peoples national differences were respected as each person heard the gospel in their own language. This was despite the fact that by far the majority in Jerusalem would have spoken Latin or Greek or both: God chose to respect difference.
When Peter got up to speak, the bible says “Peter stood up with the Eleven”. I was talking to a denominational leader in Australia who thinks the way this is phrased is quite important. We are used to leaders who lead from the front, visionaries who drag others along in their wake. This was a different kind of leadership, a kind of first among equals. Leadership happened in the context of fellowship. …
It’s going to take a while for my identity to catch up with where I now find myself. This picture of me is of me sitting at my new desk at St. Albert Alliance Church, where I am the new Pastor for community life and missions.
It has been a strange journey.
You might have noticed that I haven’t been writing my reflections for a while. That has been largely due to the fact that I just have not felt I have had the words to communicate what has been happening in our lives. I haven’t had the words to make sense of the journey.
For so long our commitment to what we believe God is asking of us has been expressed in our ministry with Fusion. Since 1992 I have been traveling a journey with a bunch of very special people, doing remarkable things and enjoying the adventure. I still love everything that Fusion is when its at its best, but for a while we have been sensing that God is preparing us for something else.
Regular readers of Faith Reflections would have picked up that the last four years have not been simple ones. I must admit though that I have grown over the last four years much more than at any other time of my life.
I am really appreciating getting to know Jeremy, the Senior Pastor at our church. He is quite different to me, and I can already tell that my emerging friendship with him is going to be important. He is quite focussed on learning to listen for Jesus’s voice, which I love but can tend to want to get on with things.
A good friend of mine gave me John Eldridges’ Walking with God a few years ago, and back then as I read it, I found it very hard to engage with – it seemed quite “airy fairy”. When Jeremy mentioned that the church had been really finding the book helpful my initial reaction was “Seriously?” but I figured I better give it another shot. …