The More I Am Seeking

I haven’t been blogging for a while as I have been in a bit of a funk/wasteland/at loose ends.

Why do I find myself here?  I think it has something to do with my former life.  I used to be a very busy, very productive local church pastor. You know the kind, the kind who grew a church and increased a budget and remodeled an aging facility, the kind who stayed to deal with a big mess, even after my friends said it was crazy to stay. I am used to doing lots of things at the same time, being Über productive, being part of making things happen.

But here I find myself.  My son has moved away to college, my husband has a job that is keeping him busy and I am twiddling my thumbs. Not because I don’t have things to do, but because I am uncomfortable with less to do and different things to do.  There is a different rhythm to my life and that has me scratching my head because it is so unfamiliar.  And, I started thinking….what could I add into my life, shouldn’t I be busier, more productive?

So a couple days ago, I searched the Help Wanted ads for a ministry job. I was thinking if I could find a part-time job, that would be perfect.  I can almost see myself as being part-time on a church staff.  Almost.

But then I thought about it more and thought I would be bored at the local church.  In fact, this is a big reason as to why I am not working at a local church now.  I was bored planning advent, dealing with stewardship, going to meeting.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the people, I loved making disciples, I loved moving things forward but honestly, the week-in-and-week-out of it all was so much the same that after 20 years I need something more.

What “more” do I need?  That was a hard one, but two things have surfaced.

First, some of “the more” I need is more time and more space in my life.  All the going and doing had become less satisfying for me.  I needed a different rhythm in which I had more time to think deeply, use my imagination, pray and meditate. I didn’t want to live one more week being “too busy.” I felt a real need to just be, to have days that were more open before me. I wanted my life to be richer and deeper, more creative and thoughtful.

But as I have moved in this direction, I have struggled.  Does reading and thinking and being creative “count”?  The “old me” would have said only if it was done in service of moving my local church forward and without a local church where does that leave me?

Second (and certainly related), some of “the more” I needed has to do with what I measure now in my life.

I no longer want to measure what I used to measure: budgets, debt, worship attendance & membership.  For 20 years I measured these things and frankly, I don’t know if they were the things I should have been measuring.  Yes, they were the things I was asked to measure, but were they the right things?

Getting more church members, more money and bigger/better buildings are what we have measured for a while. But over the past couple years I have had to ask myself why?  How does this relate to our mission as a church? If I have more people and a bigger staff and my building looks great is that the point of it all? I hope not, but sadly, these (people, buildings, money) have taken on a life of their own and in some (many??) situations they have become what we set our goals around.

But now I see more clearly that these are just resources to make disciples. Buildings, people, money, all are to be used in service of making disciples.  They are not ends in themselves. Not ever. If you have them and are not making disciples you are wasting your time life.

“The more” I am after is the more of making disciples. Not running a church.  Not raising funds.  Not leading worship.  Because while those things can help make disciples it ain’t necessarily so….Sadly, I have seen this first hand.

So, I am spending time differently, measuring things differently and one of the big things I am learning in my new ministry role is that I need to be where I am at and just be willing to invest in people and where that goes, I don’t always know.  It is more nebulous and for someone who has counted worship attendance, giving and membership, it is a strange new world.

I am seeing this with The House Church Network. We have 12 groups that have either completed training and/or have launched.  Some are connected to a local church (about half) and the other half are not.  Some are going well, others less well. I also have one group in Pasadena that wants to start where we are praying for another couple to come alongside them plus we have a young adult in LA who wants to start a group too.  So new leaders making disciples…

I am seeing this with our new Young Adult Group and a Discipleship Huddle I am working on in the West District (Cal-Pac).  Like our House Churches these are all laity run and there is a dance to getting to know people and build enough trust that they let you into their lives so that you can be a mentor who can disciple them as they reach for the dream God has put in their hearts.

I want to finish by sharing an import “more” I just experienced. Today, I had a friend reach out to me and say how much he appreciated what I was doing and that it gave him hope.  And that made me feel more settled and like I could write about this.  Not because everything was better and I can totally embrace this new chapter of my life, but because I no longer felt so alone.  I felt valued.  I saw my place in the divine drama and saw the new rhythm of it demands something different from me and I am learning to live into that. This will take time, but lucky for me (smile), I have the time to learn.