Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pastor Erik--April 2008

Last month I wrote about our Guiding Principles, and how I wasn’t going to tell you just how we are supposed to use them. I know this was less than satisfying for many of you, who are still trying to wrap your heads around these six statements and what they mean. I’m with you. It’s not clear how God is going to continue to transform us through these statements. But…I’ve got another example to share—one that took place even before these guiding principles were put to paper (or bulletin, or business card, or giant full color poster, or T-shirt). And once again, it has to do with our doors.

Back in September, I wrote about how I saw in the process of replacing our front doors what I thought would be one of our Guiding Principles—the principle that came out “Everyone is Welcome”. Well, now it’s clear to me that God had us using all of our Guiding Principles in that process—even though we didn’t consciously know what they were yet. And here’s how:

1)Jesus is Lord and Savior. Conversations about our broken doors and whether we thought they ought to be repaired (again) or replaced have been going on around here for years. Some people wanted new doors, some people didn’t think we needed them. Hours and hours were spent in council meetings on whose opinion should win, but nobody wanted to hurt anybodies feelings, and so nothing ever seemed to happen. That is until the conversation started to move away from “what do we want/need/think is best” and towards “What is God calling us to do?” Jesus—not me, the council, or even the congregation—is Lord, and when we started to think in this way it lead to…

2) Everyone is Welcome. When we started to think about what God is calling us to do and be, and how we proclaim (or don’t proclaim) Jesus to the world it quickly became clear that we believe “Everyone is Welcome” but our old, clunky, broken doors were communicating “Everyone Stay Out!” In a clear use of our emerging Guiding Principle, the old doors were quickly gone, funds raised, and new ones installed—not because somebody wanted it and they one, but because we together saw how we weren’t living up to something very central to us, and were communicating to the world exactly the opposite of what God was calling us to.

3) Love Changes People. Though the process to replace the doors happened quickly, there continued to be different opinions on whether this was the right move or the right time. Rather than pushing for their way, those who felt called to lead us into getting new doors helped us gently see the possibility of change, loving us into a new future. It was actually the kids who got most excited about this, each week they pasted a picture of one sort of door we might want to get onto the old doors. Little by little the dream began to spread, lovingly rather than by force, and pretty soon the congregation was alive with talk of the vision of new doors. Rather than conflict, I heard those with objections being heard, their opinions valued and listened to, and instead of being the “loosers” were part of the process, whether they every thought replacing the doors was a good idea or not.

4) We are Called to Work in God’s World One of the best reasons against the doors that was raised was “wouldn’t this money be better spent in helping the needy?” If we believe “we are called to work in God’s world” we should always ask this question—and carefully weigh our decision. As the people of God we should not simply think of ourselves, our own needs and wants, but should always be mindful of our role in the world and the plight of those who struggle to survive. But rather than a selfish “we want our church to look pretty” decision, in the end the motivation for the new doors was welcoming those outside our community, done not for us, but for others—following God’s call to hospitality.

5) God Uses Ordinary People Like Us. Though the council had gone back and forth about the old doors, this transformation happened not because of a council decision, but because ordinary people felt called to lead, and to hold us to our Guiding Principle “Everyone is Welcome”. The official vote came long after the vision had been stirred, a good portion of money raised, and real excitement built over this transformation. And though there were a few people who contributed a large amount of money, each of us who put even a few dollars into the plate for the doors helped to make this happen. In small and large ways God used us to make this transformation happen, a visible sign to us and to all who enter that God is at work at Bethlehem—that we are being transformed from the inside out. And through something as simple as some new doors.

6) God Shows the Way. In the end, the success of our new doors had little to do with our efforts, our casting of the vision, or anything else that we did. Instead, because we took the time to listen to God, to pray and dream about what God might want us to do and the sort of church God wants us to be, God lead us into transformation. And through this process we got a taste of what it looks like to engage in transformational ministry, to use our Guiding Principles (even if we didn’t know it at the time), and to follow God’s lead.

Isn’t Transformation fun?

Pastor Erik