Yesterday my Joanne and I attended our old church where we said “Hi” to many old friends, celebrated the ministry of the interim pastor who had led the way the last 6 months and was now leaving for another gig. (And the celebration of a new full time pastor starting next week.)
It was good to visit and we enjoyed the fellowship, the sermon, the singing and the lunch which followed. (Though we had to leave early because of work commitments.) In many ways it was like walking into my parents family home. In many senses it is still home; but in many other ways, its no longer home. I have sensed since the age of 16, that I was called to be a pastor. Indeed, after that encounter where I heard the Lord say to me, “Craig, I am calling you, calling you, calling you!” and I knew I had told the biggest whooping lie of my life when I told our Boy’s Brigade Chaplain about it, saying “But I know God doesn’t want me to be a minister!” I knew then that the Lord had indeed called me to be a minister.
But, the question I never asked then and it has taken me 30 years to get to where I am now – was just what kind of minister had the Lord called me to be? I had once believed the stereotype and was caught up in the romanticism of what a minister is – dressed in a robe or dog collar around the neck – standing behind the pulpit, proclaiming with great authority God’s word. Now – I don’t want anything to do with the robes or the dog collar for that matter. I enjoy preaching – but the greatest lesson I have learnt is that I don’t ever want to preach to anyone ever again. Instead, I prefer to come alongside people and engage in their life, where they are at, and share God’s love with them – instead of preaching to them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the authority of God’s word. I enjoy preaching behind the pulpit. (Though truthfully, I hate standing behind it, and would rather walk in front of it to engage with the congregation.) These days I am much more at home sharing the good news with a local year 5 and 6 class on a weekly basis. Sitting around the campfire at our men’s group sharing the ups and downs of life, looking into the Scriptures to see what they say to us and praying for each other. I’m more at home at the Tuesday morning community BBQ, where we share a meal and life with those whom the majority of society tend to ignore or look down on. There are conversations that would make one blush and cry. And yet there are other conversations where the real nitty gritty’s of life are also discussed and perhaps the opportunity presents itself to encourage those that indeed there is a God who is for them and not against them. Then there is the ministry with the intellectually disabled and their carers whom I spend some time with…I had the joy of sharing the sermon with a small group just before Easter. And there is a possibility towards the end of the year, where I start doing some School Chaplaincy work.
Jesus sent his disciples out into the community. He sent them out to the back blocks, the highways and the byways of life – into every sphere of society to share his love. And he said, “If you do this, I will build my church!” We have been having some discussions as to what church might look like if we plant one from the work we are doing. (When I say we, I mean the whole ministry team that I am a part of) At the moment we have women’s group, Sunday school, youth groups, men’s group, community groups, school ministry and a stack of other things that are going on and the reality is, this is the church in action. And while we may never all come together in one specific time : we do come together and celebrate the Lord when we meet together over a meal, a song, a word of encouragement, a time of prayer or Scripture sharing…and as we do this – its Christ who is continuing to build his church.
Truly, I love being a community pastor – it can’t get any more exciting then that, can it?
In January I posted about an upcoming month of celebration of a Inter life church in Ingleburn. We were intending to visit next Sunday; but my wife was asked to lead worship at church and so I went along last Sunday.
It was so good to catch up with old friends. They are truly a multicultural church. Jun preached from the first book of Thessalonians about Thankfulness. Together he and his wife Cherry stood up and did an amazing thing; something that I have never seen done at church before. They each spoke a direct word of thanks towards every individual member of the congregation and thanked them specifically for their lives, gifting’s, calling’s and service in the church.
It was amazing to see the individuals and thus congregation stand up tall as the encouraging words were spoken over the life of the congregation. The music was amazing and the welcome was terrific and the lunch that followed made it even better.
It was good to stand in the midst of their fellowship and witness the fruit of Gods faithfulness in their lives. We first met at college in 2006. The college had called a time of fasting. At the time I had felt God call me to plant a church in Tahmoor and had just prayed about it with a friend about needing a team to be involved with it… a few minutes later I was in the library and Cherry asked me; “What did I think God had called me to do” And so I told her that I felt I had been called to plant a church. I asked her the same question to which she replied… We also feel called to plant a church. Cherry said the most amazing thing when I asked her “Where?” which also made me laugh so hard. Her reply was Tahmoor.
Tahmoor was the place I was living at the time and was the place I felt called to plant a church also…we both laughed and I was told that her church had been talking and praying about planting a church there over the previous 12 months. It was shortly after this that we moved from the church we had fellowshipped at to fellowship with this church.
While the church plant at Tahmoor never did eventuate because of various circumstances; it was great to see the fruit of my friends stepping out and doing what they felt God had called them to do.