Thursday, July 31, 2014


I'm learning about the difference between technical and adaptive challenges this week. I'm reflecting about all the quick fixes and surface treatments church folk use to deny systemic issues and avoid real loss. Sounds fun, right?

And so I find myself thinking about church while pulling weeds with Jasper tonight. He yanks them out by the leaves, but the roots remain buried deep between the cracks of stones and steps in our backyard. He's eager to make a pile and have something to show for his work.

I don't blame him. It takes time to get at the roots! Your fingernails get dirty and you need tools from the garage. This is slow work, surrounding the stems with your patience and perseverance before a tug sets them free and they head to the bucket. Going deep is hard.

I'm also learning about how to listen to the longings of others who are not yet in church community. I'm learning things I already know, but have had no language for:

People have come to the church in search of their 'belovedness' - affirmation that they are known and claimed and chosen and saved by a God who loves them fiercely - and instead we hand them importance and duties.
Until our longings match or outweigh our fear of loss, we cannot access the new behaviors necessary for saying YES to the Spirit's call.
Good faith leaders help people recognize their giftedness in, but especially beyond, the congregation.  
The largest growing demographic in America is people who have never experienced genuine community before. They are longing to be listened to and told about their belovedness.
Church goers have long been able to articulate the importance of membership, but not the benefits, the transformation, or the joy. In a corporate sense, they are disconnected from the call they received in baptism to Live, Hear, Proclaim, Serve, and Work for the sake of the Kingdom.
I'm learning (again) that it's easy to pull weeds out by the leaves. It's much harder to poke around at the roots: wondering about systems, listening well, asking courageous questions, and casting a vision that might face some opposition. It's much harder to look at people who are comfortable doing church and teach them how to be the church.

We are a bunch of pastors sitting in a room at the Hilton. Our brains are spinning about our leaders, our challenges, our dreams, and our fears. We are inspired, but tired when we start to think about the work ahead of us. Mission development and redevelopment is exciting, but exhausting work.

But then you go home and you sift through your mail pile. And you find proof that the Spirit is stirring up baptismal promises. It is causing a witness to be proclaimed. It has leaders restless and eager and refreshed by the water and the Word.

I cried reading Carolyn and Stan's letters to my children. They are already keeping promises and being the church and going deep by confessing the power of community and sacrament. They are leaning into the idea that baptism is a new beginning for Solveig and Tove, but also for their leadership and faith.

1 Peter says,
"Be ready to give an account of the joy that is within you."

And so it is not about the pile of leaves, the quick fixes, or the sense of importance. It is about the belovedness. It is about listening to each other and then proclaiming that which is beautiful and holy because God is among us. It is about dirty fingernails and a spade gentle and firm. It is about leaders who can

testify to the joy and go down to the roots.

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