New models lead to new ways of seeing, not only church but also ourselves. At least that is some of what I am learning.
This past weekend the church I serve and the church we are moving toward merger with met to discuss and pass our cooperative parish agreement. The agreement overwhelming passed (each congregation had its own vote).
The agreement comes from a model that we’d work cooperatively for a year and then merge July 2012 becoming one church on two campuses. It will take about a year to work out various ministry issues, get church leadership to work in sync and deal with debt issues. The larger goal is to plant additional churches that would be part of this model and possibly even merge with a couple additional UMC churches. We began with Shepherd of the Hills and Santa Margarita for two reasons. First, we believed that while SOTH is the strongest campus the UMC has in South Orange County, that SMUMC was the second strongest. And second, the downturn in the economy (which didn’t effect church giving as much as it did impact income from the preschool drying up), had put SMUMC in a place were it could not pay it Conference Loans.
Those on the teams did a great job putting together a plan that celebrates the strengths of each campus. It was a great meeting and celebration of being proactive and embracing this new opportunity which will strengthen both church’s ministries. On the way out the door, I spoke with a dozen SMUMC leaders who expressed excitement for this next chapter and opportunity.
But honestly, I cried all the way home. Sobbed really.
So the last couple days I have been sitting with this and processing it and so far this is what I am coming to understand.
I have operated under a model where I have seen my ministry as about having an opportunity to build on my strengths and grow the church. I had wanted to have a chance to be appointed where I could stretch and grow my gifts for ministry and make a difference for the Kingdom of God. For me that was about being a strong preacher, leader and counselor. All good things, don’t get me wrong…
But what I am realizing in the time of new models is that what I have valued (basically getting the most out of my gifts for ministry and the fulfillment of my gifts in the local church) isn’t what may be needed. Instead what may be needed is a willingness to be part of a bigger picture and to be of service to that bigger picture even, and maybe especially, when it costs.
This has shaken me to my core. OK, that sounds a big too dramatic, but it has been a big thing. I guess I never really noticed how even in the midst of doing working so hard and studying so much and putting in so many hours that I was still too much about me.
Maybe part of the new model is a willingness to put aside “getting the most out of my gifts” and instead being willing to “be of the most service” in life. To move from “making the most of one’s gifts” to “participating in what God is doing” even when it steps all over one’s hopes and dreams.
I guess the clearest I can say it is that I am learning that maximizing my life & ministry has got to be less important than being part of what God needs doing.
This is hard stuff. Much harder than I thought it would be.