Life never goes quite where you expect.
As of last night I have a new ‘job’.
Over the last year or two I have preached occasionally at Quinns Baptist Church, a small community of people just down the road from us.
They are a good bunch and I have enjoyed being with them on those occasions. About 6 weeks ago after a sermon I was approached and asked if I’d like to do some work there next year.
‘What kind of work?’ I asked.
‘Whatever you do…’ was the response.
I was liking the sound of that job. “Well I sleep in late, drink lots of coffee, have people wait on me hand and foot… Seriously’ I said ‘If you are interested in who we are then give me a call and we can talk.’ The overall gist of the invitation was to come and give leadership to a group of people who are keen to move but not sure where.
The last 5 years have been very helpful for us in terms of clarifying who we are – what we are about and the things that are not negotiable, so if we were to give leadership it would be a very specific kind and it would head in a very clear direction – that of giving shape to a missionary community.
Take it or leave it.
So over the last 6 weeks we have had a few meetings and conversations and in the absence of a set job description I wrote my own for developing a missionary community and described in 3 pages what such a community would look like. (I can email you a copy if you want to see it – but I won’t be putting it on here)
It was a picture of the kind of the church we would like to be involved with either as leaders or as members and a vision of where we would head if we worked together. It draws on all of the learning we have done here in Brighton as well as considering the issues involved in more regular church life.
So,they called – we talked – we met with their leaders – their church met and voted (they are Baptist…) and now, as of last night, we have a ‘job’. (Job is in inverted commas because church leadership is not a job in any traditional sense.)
It is a ‘2 day a week’ job and in the other time I will be continuing my retic & turf business as I have found that to be a place of great enjoyment.
We are calling it an ‘engagement’ period because we are both aware that a trial period is healthy in any relationship to find out if we are a good fit for one another. Normally these things aren’t very possible as people have to move house and commit to a new church, often after a very short ‘dating’ period. Because we live 2kms away we have the luxury of not having to move house, not having to send kids to a new school – in fact not having to do much different at all.
So we will work together until April when we head off on our trip around Oz and the US (that was a not negotiable part of the arrangement!) and hopefully by then we will know if a ‘marriage’ is a good idea. I should say that we are going into this keen to make it work and keen to explore what we have been learning in a new setting and with a new bunch of people.
We are very much aware of the tensions in this situation and the fact that people say ‘yes’ to ideas much more easily than they say ‘yes’ to reality. I think a test period is really healthy for both of us as we get a genuine ‘no obligation’ opportunity to figure out whether we can work together well. I think we are well beyond being idealists in these situations now and know that whatever we do will be partly rewarding and enjoyable and partly just hard work.
We will keep Upstream
running and in time make a decision about how we work together on that front. We are still very keen to keep deeply involved in our own community and there is no point in making any firm decisions until we are surer of the future.
So we are looking forward to a new challenge.
I have needed one for a while and this could be just the right thing to stir the creative juices and bring some new energy. One of the particularly appealing things about this role is that we don’t have to move. We have spent a long time getting established here and getting to know the local community so it gives a place to develop that further rather than starting over. As much as I love change and moving house, I think this could be a good chance to do something new yet in the same space.
Over the course of the year we have been working with established churches who are seeking to ‘re-imagine’ and I had to admit that I did like the thought of having a crack at it myself. I have been aware of a few different churches seeking leaders but I haven’t applied to any of them. I tend to wait to be ‘invited’ and lately – since we have stepped outside the regular system – we haven’t had too many of them!
There are some wonderful ironies in this situation.
The Quinns church is connected to Quinns Baptist College… and you all know my thoughts on Christian schools!… And then even funnier is the fact that the school is currently in the process of building an enormous great 1200 person auditorium – primarily for school use – but if we want it then we have first refusal. I can see it now…
Anyway – there is lots to chuckle about and no doubt this ‘twist’ will amuse some and concern others. To those who fear we may have given up on our convictions about the missional incarnational church the short response is ‘NOPE’. We are looking forward to a different experience, working those convictions out in an established setting.
I have had some ‘oh shit’ moments over the last few weeks as we have pondered this. In many ways it is like a marriage and I felt strangely similarly after I got engaged to Danelle. Seventeen years on we are doing pretty well!
On that note I will sign off on this post with a great quote from Alan Roxburgh in The Missional Leader:
“In these biblical narratives God is constantly present in places where no one would logically expect God’s future to emerge and yet it does over and over. There is nothing in these stories about getting the wrong people off the bus and the right people on to accomplish great ends and become the best organization in the world. This God who calls us is always calling the wrong people onto a bus that isn’t expected to arrive.”
Missional Leader A. Roxburgh Pg 18