I was appointed as a pioneer minister – that means that my focus is always to be first and foremost on those who are outside the church. Up to now, in this post here in Lady Bay and in my previous pioneer roles, I have always interpreted that as meaning that I personally needed to be way out in front, starting new things myself. To use a space exploration analogy, I thought it should be me putting on the spacesuit and stepping outside the airlock to undertake the spacewalk, or, to use a biblical parallel, like Peter, to step out of the boat onto stormy water (Matthew 14:22-33). On one level, that is the task I hoped the students would join me in. Instead they kept noticing and encouraging the potential and growth already happening among you and among others in the wider community.
I hope I’ll never lose that pioneering spirit, but through the experience of working with the students and through our participation in the Partnership for Missional Church, together with the students and some members of the congregation, I have come to see things a little differently. I see my role from this point forward as helping people to get to the point where they are willing to take those steps of faith themselves, both as individuals and as members of the surprising number of small but overlapping communities that actually make up our church. I believe that God is calling me to invest my time and energy in encouraging that pioneering spirit in others.
This leads me to set three priorities for myself:
- encouraging disciples
- encouraging leaders
- encouraging community
I use the word encouragement here because first of all it’s a word that reflects that this is something I believe I am called to do with people, not to, or for them. I’ll invest in the people who want to go on this journey together and bless those who decide it’s not for them. The other thing about encouragement is that it is about helping people find courage. That means helping them to name the step that God is calling them to take that will help them to grow but might well be making them feel a little afraid or nervous.
Encouraging disciples means accompanying those who want to take Jesus more seriously in how they live their lives among their neighbours. Encouraging leaders means mentoring those whom God is raising up to take responsibility in the life of this church and community. Encouraging community means gathering those who want to grow in love and honesty with one another both within and beyond the church.
All this means I will spend less time on doing things on behalf of the church as its sole representative and more time helping the whole church to take up its proper relationship with Lady Bay. That relationship with our community needs to be shaped by the six holy habits that Partnership for Missional Church has at its heart – dwelling in the word, corporate spiritual discernment, hospitality, announcing the kingdom, dwelling in the world and focus for missional action. If you don’t understand what those words mean yet, don’t worry, we’ll be taking some time over the coming months to help us all understand them better. To begin with, this means, I’ll be looking to share as many ministry tasks with others as I can manage. Where before I took a student with me on, for instance, a visit to a family enquiring about baptism or to lead a school assembly, I’ll now be looking to take someone else from All Hallows or Lady Bay.
One of the first things I’ll be trying to do is to establish a new weeknight ‘exploring faith’ group for people who want to go deeper in their faith as well as those who might not be sure that Christian faith is for them at all but who are willing to be part of a conversation about it.
There will be some opportunities to talk together about what this all means soon. In the meantime if there’s anything about this that puzzles, concerns or excites you that you want to share with me, do get in touch, I’d be really pleased to come and talk to you about it. For now, I invite you to prayerfully consider how God might be calling you to join me on this next chapter of our adventure together.