Sunday, 13 January 2013

Keep your hands off the tiller?

It's an interesting model of church leadership.

This morning after the church meeting, Georgie (the other warden) and I were talking about how the church is growing and progressing. We feel as though, for the last few weeks, God has been adding new people to the body here, often mature Christians and also often younger people too. We've had one lady join us who started tithing (we never mentioned it, and there was no prompting at all from us) within a couple of weeks, and it's not the money at all, but the sign that someone else is committing themselves to what God is doing here.

I'm really thankful.

Some kind of explanation is necessary. I'm not one that has to see a big church to believe God is at work, and in fact probably the opposite. A discussion with a friend who also heads up the worship in another church didn't go well when they pointed out that good worship will always draw people and bad worship drives them away: my experience was that the ones who left were often fickle instead of being committed. It didn't seem to end the conversation well, and it would have been better face to face than by messenger, but I've seen plenty of congregations acting as a barometer of worship quality, and to be honest, if that's all the commitment people have then, on one level at least, I'd prefer they went somewhere else for their culture-fix.

Maybe not quite, because if that's all they do then they'll never get discipled, never grow beyond being consumers, never start being part of the answer, even if they aren't exactly part of the problem.

But I digress.

Since having responsibility like this it's very hard to not watch numbers. The whole thing is magnified by the need to maintain a church register (you know we keep a list of everyone who comes, right? Nah, not really) so we can show how many were there as well as who led, what was said etc. So counting heads is required, and suddenly when you're down to 8 for a midweek meeting and 20 for a Sunday where a year ago you'd see 40 and anything up to 100 including kids then it needs a bit of faith to believe God is going to do what you've stood up and said - preached even - that He's said he's going to do.

So the great thing about faith is that it's the thing hoped for but not yet seen. But if you only ever hope and never see, was your faith based on any kind of reality? So it's good for my heart and soul to see that God IS faithful, and that He brings encouragement and reassurance that He will do what He's said He will do.

So what's this about tillers?

A constant theme running through our dealings with God over Heyford Park Chapel has been His insistence that it's His church. He's talked about filling what is quite a large building, He's talked about walls crumbling but foundations remaining strong and sound, about the need to be joined together: all kinds of stuff. And one of the key things is that He will build the church. The very worst thing that we (as a leadership team) and me (as a leader) could therefore do would be to come along and take hold of the tiller and start guiding the church into the shape and direction we want it to be.

This is not a problem, because my nature is to want to see what God is doing and line myself up with it - seeing churches run like show business based around a few 'stars', or trying to market themselves with the latest patterns is really disturbing. I am a natural lieutenant, and want lead while following.


When you're out the front, it can feel awfully lonely sometimes, and there can be times when deciding something can seem like a good idea (boy, did we foul one of those up!). When you're alone talking to God it can be very easy to step away and start planning how one will do certain things to make other things happen and start slotting people into places, re-shaping meetings etc.

At the same time I can see that as a church we still haven't really sorted how we disciple, still haven't got lines of pastoral care going on, aren't relating to each other as we need to.

And we're learning to depend on each other.

We're all 'characters' and that's all fine. Let's hope we can all keep our hands off the tiller. As a leadership team we're away praying and fasting in a couple of weeks, and that is no bad thing - it's hard to steer when you're on your knees.

1 comment:

  1. First time in a dinghy you tend to learn that sometimes a heavy hand on the tiller ends up with a dip in the drink!

    I see leadership as far more like the captain of a ship who knows overall where they are going but has to work with the prevailing winds, tides, ability of the crew ... And is also willing take oar or bilge pump in hand!


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