Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Endurance Inspired by Hope...

(photo from
I'm really not a very patient man, just ask my wife. When I get an idea in my head, I won't rest until I have either succeeded at it, or failed miserably. I can't sit still, not even at home. Watching a movie is out of the question because it requires me to sit down for 2 hours without getting up. I've been a restless soul all of my life, I guess. But I don't think that restlessness, as a character trait, is necessarily a bad thing. Restlessness sometimes births great ideas. It also sometimes births great trouble.

The easy thing to do, especially after a conference like the one I just attended, is to run back home full of all of these new ideas and immediately begin trying to put them in place. It might work. It might not.

The more difficult thing to do, and actually most difficult for me, is to stop and listen for a while. That is where I'm at. I would have loved to have been able to stay a few more days in the mountains of North Carolina, kicked back in a rocking chair overlooking the lake, just to listen and write. Maybe one of these days I'll do that, but not this week.

The Spirit has been speaking to me lately, and I realize it has my folks at First Church nervous as a bunch of cats in a room full of rocking chairs. You can relax, I promise. Part of my role as shepherd is discerning what is the voice of the Spirit, and what is my own inner desires or wants. It's not always as cut and dried as some would think. Sometimes Jamie gets all in the way, and I'm not sure that's not what's happening right now.

Now, this might not sound remotely like the person that wrote my blog yesterday, but it's me, honest. I have discovered that I am in a period of discernment. I'm listening. I'm listening to the voice of the Spirit...I'm listening to the needs of the community...I'm listening to the dreams of my people...I'm listening to what has worked, or not, in other places...and I'm even listening to my own gut feelings. Yesterday, one of my members said I need to just go ahead and let the cat out of the bag because the suspense was killing them (Thank you for keeping me in line and encouraging me, Susan) so here it goes.

We are looking for ways to reach out to a particular age group at First Church, and have been since January. The group we are targeting, and that is probably the best way to word it, is the 20 - 50 year old age group. It's a generation that is missing in most mainline churches. We, I include myself in that group even though I'm closer to the top end of the age range, are not the Baby Boomers, and we're not the Gen X's. We're kind of in between. What works for those groups doesn't necessarily work for us. So what does the church need to become to reach us?

That's where I'm stuck. I first thought it was projection screens, great audio, worship bands with guitars and drums, and that we needed to design a worship experience that looked like that. I'm still convinced that may be a big part of it. But I think it's deeper than that. I think this age group wants more relationship and less heirarchy. I think they want honest and open dialogue. I think they want a place where they can wear the same clothes to worship and then to the golf course or the movies. I think they want a place where they are heard. I think, that if they come to worship, they want it to be authentic, but that it doesn't have to be in a church building. I think they want study groups that deal with real life issues and use language that they are familiar with, and not all churchy.

So, here is where Paul comes in this morning. Writing to the church at Thessalonica, he said, "We continually remember before God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Endurance inspired by hope...chew on that just a second. I have great hope in the future of the Church. I hope that we can become what we need to become to reach this age group. It's not just their souls at stake, it's their kids' souls, and their kids' kids' souls. I hope that those in the positions of power now, in all of our churches, can see the importance of reaching these folks for the future of the kingdom, and will be willing to lay their own comfort aside to do that. I hope that I can catch a vision for what First Church can do to create alternative entry points for this age group. I hope that the Spirit leads all of it. And those hopes keep me going.

But for now, I listen..for now. So, my folks can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Jamie is not instituting any sweeping changes. But...


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