Saturday, October 03, 2009

being mindful of reverse mission

thanks to the wisdom of my wife,* i have started dedicating my mandatory furlough days to sermon preparation instead of betting on the ponies at suffolk downs.

since i was studying in the bowels of s.h.i.t. yesterday i decided to attend a free forum on re-seeding the mainline denominations in new england town centers by strategically placing evangelical pastors in u.c.c., a.b.c. and other alphabet soup pulpits.

i think that this approach is shrewd in that it aims to revitalize local churches that already have deep connections to the community and an established footprint in the public square. in addition, since several of these churches - such as the disciples of christ and the u.c.c. - have congregational government systems a candidate could conceivably pursue this strategy without getting too entangled in denominational politics.

however, while i think the strategy has merit and i respect the missional intentions of the gentlement who started overseed in order to support evangelical pastors who pursue this path, i was a little put off by the oversimplifications and apparent judgments of our mainline brothers and sisters that were sprinkled throughout the presentation, such as:

* these churches have not grown because the pastors have not preached Jesus
* the mainline parishoners are committed to loving the people in their community, but their love has no redemptive intention
* many mainline pastors are lazy and undedicated to their ministry. for this reason they have set the expectations quite low for evangelicals who are interested in their pulpits

in his book gracias henri nouwen talks about the idea of reverse mission. in it's simplest form, reverse mission suggests that a christian who pours herself/himself out in service to others will usually end up being more of a beneficiary than she/he will be a benefactor. because of that idea, i wanted to ask the overseed leaders - "what do evangelicals have to learn from the mainline pastors and churches?" - but for once i chose to set my contrarian hat aside.

i think that the reality of reverse mission raises some interesting questions about the missiology of evangelicals who have entered mainline denominations such as the episcopal church, u.s.a., but that's another post for another day.

* which i could write books about.

Friday, October 02, 2009

trying real hard

yesterday i felt like i had my shit together. late in the afternoon i met with a senior research fellow at a major university and we talked about how we can help transform the lives of others through workforce development and considered how we can successfully navigate the system so that those whose primary accomplishment is "completing their sentences" won't wreck havoc on our industry and ideas. i felt like hot shit as we grabbed for our emblazoned wallets at a sidewalk cafe and kept our cold guns fixed on the ringos of the world.

near the end of the conversation the research fellow/leadership expert asked me what my five year plan was and i stumbled a bit as my mouth spewed ideas about mission-driven non-profit leadership and i desperately sought to to re-orient the compass i cannot shake.

today, as my legally blind ass is readjusting to the light i've been given, i realize that much like jules, my ambitions and plans are the tyranny of evil men, yet my reluctant heart is calling me to be a shepherd.

and yet, as i sit at an adolescent desk in the basement of s.h.i.t., i cannot think of a role i am less prepared to play. today i have prayed, searched the introduction of mark's gospel and sandbagged tears every step of the way as i wrestle the vulnerability, surrendered agency and servility that mark the path of pastoral ministry.

today i am shit served cold as i return to the task wherein my strength is insufficient and altogether not the point. i can't fathom why God has called me to lead when i can barely walk the earth and i can only find comfort in the stories of forerunners who were unfit to remove sandals and stump preachers who were scarcely literate.

i am terrified and clearly out-of-season. but for God's grace, i can't continue.