Monday, August 13, 2012

The Unlikely Pastor: Aloof

"I don't know what Pastor Tim has planned. He's kind of aloof."

My most recent critic was Rachel, a recent graduate from our youth group. She had just returned from Momentum Youth Conference with six other students, re-energized in her relationship with Jesus. Moreover, Rachel expressed a passion to "be the church" not just "go to church."

This distinction came from speaker Francis Chan. Every Sunday their church hits the streets of San Francisco by giving, praying, feeding, and proclaiming Jesus on street corners, coffee shops, and restaurants. Our students wanted to follow suit. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a Chipotle (or human being) in Leesburg, Indiana.

"What does "being the church" look like in our context?" we asked at our next youth group.

The Town of Leesburg comprises approximately 300 homes. Many residents live on fixed incomes--disability, unemployment, retirement benefits, meth profits. The teens brainstormed, listing the following components of a plan: tithe money, Walmart, and knocking on doors.

We asked more questions; I gave a few suggestions. We refined the plan: Our church would provide door-to-door grocery service, buying any one item for any family with any need (cigarettes and People magazine excluded).

By no means was the plan perfect, but it satisfied the students' longing to move the church beyond its walls. We took their passion and gave it contours. Then we put it on the calendar: two Sundays out. Not only would we have time to gather support from our adults, but the blitz would sync perfectly with my sermon on Paul's first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) scheduled for that week.

Two days later I left for California. The students would give the first plug for their outreach event while I attended a conference of my own. Sunday arrived. Students took front stage at our church. They shared stories of growth and speakers of note. Then Rachel sabotaged me.

"I don't know what Pastor Tim has planned. He's kind of aloof."

Rumors about my inability to plan had been growing over the past five years. Evidence to back up the claims abound. Ideas come easy to me; plans are overdue pregnancies. I need to surround myself with Hebrew midwives who can make my ideas breathe.

Then again, any church that limits its vitality to pastoral initiative is certain to die. In fact, my higher aim as a pastor is not giving birth, but building a nursery. I want to create a context where the ideas of others get feet and flourish. This means giving permission rather terms of service. This means providing guidance rather than giving directives. This means empowering members rather than employing them. This means allowing for failure rather than demanding efficiency.

And, worse case scenario, it means you might appear aloof.

NOTE: The Care Blitz underwent further tweaking. Leesburg Grace divided into three groups for worship. A handful prayed; half listened to the sermon on Paul's first journey; half canvassed the town with care packages. We talked and prayed with many of our neighbors, and gave away 70 care packages on August 12, 2012.

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