October 22, 2006

Seeing the Spirit

This weekend (Friday-Saturday) I attended a two-day church meeting in our region. The focus was starting new congregations. I don't really know why I signed up; no one else in my congregation was interested, and usually, when it comes to things like this, my philosophy is, "If I can get someone else to go with me, I'll go; otherwise, I won't." But something made me sign up. Could it have been the Spirit?

The meeting was a two-hour drive away; I rode there with my friend Michael. Yes, this was part of the reason I signed up: to spend time with people I love, people who motivate me and inspire me, people who I don't get to see nearly enough (whatever "nearly enough" means).

We talked about the joys and frustrations of ministry. We talked about the joys and frustrations of parenthood. (We weren't even halfway to our destination when my youngest son's school called me on my cellphone to report on his latest failure to adjust to life in kindergarten.)

At the conference, I got hugs and queries into my well-being and the well-being of my family. These were sincere, from people who really cared. And then...

There is an excitement among the churches of my region. We are only 60 congregations, some not any bigger than one or two dozen people, and yet we have committed to starting 40 new congregations in the next 15 years. We are learning to ask, "What is possible for us?" and then go one step beyond that, and ask, "What is possible for us & God?" There's no way 60 mostly small, struggling congregations can start 40 new congregations --- not on their own, not without God's help.

Anyway, I came back renewed for ministry, because new-churches is only one aspect of the dynamic Spirit that is at work among us. My wife, who has not been able to attend this and other events that I've gone to, still sees only the frustrations of our little, struggling congregation. Next time, I told her, we're getting a babysitter, and she's coming too.

This is what ministry is like, I suppose. There is incredible joy when one sees what the Spirit is doing. There is also incredible frustration when others among whom you minister fail to see. That's my job, I suppose: to help other people see the Spirit at work when all they can see is struggle. It's not easy, especially not when I myself am prone to forget what my own eyes have seen, when times get tough.

Link: Michael & Molly's church, one of the new congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Northern California-Nevada.

1 comment:

Guido said...

The new church movement is the most exciting thing I have seen in the church.
fearless joy,