SENSING THE SPIRIT

Posted by secondchurch on April - 24 - 2017

Thoughts from Pastor Mark

Glorifying God in a radically inclusive Christian community through social engagement.” ~ DRAFT Purpose Statement for The Second Church in Newton

I am rarely overt in stating one of my main motivations as I minister with you and to you. First and foremost, my goal is to love the congregation and to faithfully serve the church and God in Christ as I do so. Next, as an INTENTIONAL interim pastor, I strive to prepare you for the next pastorate.

We have done much to get the church ready for the next pastor. We have a compelling vision, which is now printed on all church publications. And we seem to have an emerging purpose (see statement above).  This was the result of the congregational work done after worship on Palm Sunday and polished over the last week.

As the congregation is doing this work, and other processes such as making adjustments in worship and the way we think about mission engagement, the Transition Team is working on a parallel track, doing discernment, gathering data about Second Church and Newton and assembling it in a digital portfolio called “The Local Church Profile.”

In the days of yore, a Pastoral Search Committee would do this work and then go on to work on the personnel management aspects of receiving Pastoral Profiles (a sort of mirror image of The Local Church Profile which pastoral candidates will submit), sorting, ranking, and interviewing candidates, plus hearing some preach, checking references, and preparing call documents (which are similar to contracts, but based in faith-based-covenant more than legalese). We are splitting that job between two groups so that there is less chance for burn out.

All of the work that we have done during the interim time and are doing with the Transition Team is important spiritual work. It’s more than assembling words and statistics into documents. It’s really a process of testing the Spirit. By “testing the Spirit,” I mean doing spiritual discernment to determine the following: who we are; who God is calling us to be; and what God is calling us to do.

This takes a lot of work.  When I first arrived at Second Church, the congregation was in shock after the Crossroads Process caused an implosion. Then both pastors resigned within a week of each other. In the meanwhile a large contingent in the congregation left or disengaged, which caused further upset and confusion. The emotional and spiritual toll these events took on the church won’t be settled for a couple of years. My assessment has been that it will take five years to rebuild, especially if the church wants to become more resilient, faithful and effective. The church has become stable and leaders are helping lead the church in new directions in significant ways.

All this work and my way of leading may seem funky or disjointed to some people, but I can tell you that it’s all for a purpose: to help you find the best pastor with the gifts and graces to lead the church through the rebound and beyond. I can also tell you that I have seen this work done well and I have seen it done poorly. We are going at a measured pace and doing it well – very well – even if it seems wonky at times.

None of this will make complete sense until the Pastoral Selection Committee begins reviewing Pastoral Profiles. They will see words and phrases matching those of yours in the Local Church Profile. Some of this work we are doing won’t make sense until a year or so after you have called your new pastor, when you see their work complementing the vision and mission you felt God calling the church toward. 

This work is about faith. And faith doesn’t always make sense when you are practicing it, but after you have weathered a storm and gotten through to the other side, you say, “Aha! That’s what was happening back there!”

So, that’s what’s happening here. It doesn’t have to make complete sense to any of us. Process is important. Being faithful to process means that you are getting out of the way some and letting the Spirit breathe. Most every living thing works better when it breathes and that is especially true of the Body of Christ.

Now, breathe. Breathe. Breathe.  

Oh, I’m taking a 4-day “Soul of Leadership” retreat this week, Monday through Thursday. I’m breathing with you … and for you!

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