THOUGHTS FROM PASTOR MARK
“If churches around the world would grasp the revolutionary truth that Christ’s transforming power always comes through sacrifice and weakness, it would dramatically alter the landscape of the global church.” — Joni Eareckson Tada
I have served rural, suburban, and urban congregations. I’ve served those of simple means and those with considerable wealth. Universally, all of them succumbed to anxiety from time to time. I was thinking about this during the stunning Stölzel cantata last week, which was preceded by a reading from Matthew 6. Here, Jesus implores his disciples, “Do not worry about anything.” I offered a prayer after the cantata which focused on the same lesson.
I can see anxiety eking into our common life at Second Church in a number of ways – from people not engaging as they once did to finger pointing, from “let’s speed up the pastoral search process” (even though we have no clear mission for which we would offer a call) to rehashing painful moments from the congregation’s history.
The irony of this is that the people who are most engaged in the church seem to have the lowest level of anxiety. They see that transitional processes are in process and that important work is being done to prepare for new ministry. Conversely, those who attend worship less frequently, can’t or don’t see all that is being done and all that is good in the church.
I understand that people have busy lives and can’t always be in worship. I also understand that some people have been hurt by the church or have become burned out and are waiting to see who the church will call as the next pastor. I understand that people express anxiety when they feel they have little or no control. Complaining and distancing are ways we create the emotional safety to say, “That’s them messing things up. I am over here doing my thing.”
There’s the rub. In Christian community, we are called to work together as the body of Christ. Those who poke from the outside can’t build up the body because they don’t know what the body is doing or what the body needs. The reality is that we have processes in place that are working toward calling a pastor. But the church is not ready to call a new pastor. To do so now would mean that you call an unintentional interim pastor who will become disenfranchised and defeated quickly because the congregation has not done the work it needs to do in order to become more faithful, healthy, and resilient. Much of the work that needs to be done is spiritual in nature. It is difficult and it takes time.
As an interim pastor, trained to help congregations through times of change and anxiety, I can tell you the best thing you can do for yourself and for Second Church is to engage – specifically, come to worship. We are first and foremost a worshiping community. Beautiful and transformative moments occur every Sunday and during the special Lenten services. You don’t know that unless you are a part of it. We need you! We need your thinking to transform along with the rest of the community. We need you to pray with us and for us.
Next Sunday, we are doing something unique: asking worshippers to participate in a congregational survey. This snapshot of the worshiping community will be part of the basis for the Congregational Profile which will be the portfolio used to attract the next settled pastor. Your input is critical and valued. I hope you will join us this Sunday … and every other Sunday … to be part of the worshiping community and transforming Body of Christ.