My colleagues here at the Ministry Collaborative have challenged us over the last several weeks to address the proverbial ‘elephants in the room’ when it comes to the future of the Church and our local expressions of it.
We’ve been confronted with the sobering reality that our pasts, as glorious as we perceive them to be, may not provide us with necessary insights or tools to serve this present age without significant adjustments in both approach and methodology. We’ve had to wrestle with reality that the bible colleges and seminaries we attended may not have prepared us for the ministries we are serving…
We are well into a season of uncertainty and instability and eyes have not seen nor have ears heard what crises loom around the next corner.
Who wants to hear this… Really?
Who wants to interrogate how we’ve been formed spiritually, and then cross-examine (pun intended) how we’ve endeavored to form others?
Who wants to consider the possibility that our church programs may not have produced spiritually deep, resilient, faithful, compassionate, generous followers of Jesus?
Who wants to admit that some of our noblest efforts have been in vain because while we’ve already ‘figured things out,’ we failed to factor Jesus in?
Who wants to do this painful work… Really?
But, if we are to address the lack of depth in our programming while promoting deeper spiritual formation in our churches, we must investigate the integrity of our own formation.
I suspect that we may discover that the greatest impacts on our spiritual formation were not because of some program but rather the result of a relationship with some person who took the time to impart to us what they learned through their own living! How do we reproduce that??
As with most questions that challenge our identity, our sense of calling, and our purpose – this is hard, painful, gut-wrenching, and soul-questioning labor – but in this season, and in the words of the late Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon, “this is the work our souls must have!”
So, then, what do we do in a season fraught with uncertainty and instability? Where do we find grounding for ourselves and for those we are given to serve?
I want to suggest that all these challenges – all these unsettling questions and assessments – may present us with an interesting opportunity – an occasion to unearth the talent that we once buried because we miscalculated its value – a chance to reclaim the treasure hidden in jars of clay while liberating ourselves from a cancerous culture of comparison that carries us inevitably down a path of covetousness, competition, and constant discontentment.
Perhaps this present uncertainty and instability will give us time to recall again our own encounter with God’s grace through Jesus Christ, and the power of the Spirit to transform, deepen, enrich, and give meaning to our lives.
Perhaps this recollection is not only integral to our own spiritual journey, but maybe it is also the well-spring from which we are to pour into the lives of others.
This is not program work. This is personal. It is up close. It is uncomfortable. It makes us feel vulnerable. The outcomes are hard to control and difficult to measure. This work is deliberate – it is messy – but it is also hopeful work. And this hopeful work is the outworking of the Living Hope that possesses us through the resurrection of Jesus!
Yes, my friends, we have some elephants in the room that we cannot ignore, but we mustn’t approach these behemoths with our plans, programs, and practicums.
As we approach these elephants in our room, we can rely on the Spirit’s power, and we can trust our experience of God’s grace and power through Jesus Christ – the One who turns our elephants into opportunities!
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time… But remember we never dine alone… There is One who will sup with us if we let him in!