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If A Thousand Years is But A Day...

As I read the link below, a pastor's reflections upon his resignation from not only church but from the pastorate itself, I had to ask myself where this institution is headed.

Resignations are nothing new to me, having served some of the most well meaning of men and women. Even now serving with a pastor who's life, family and weekly sermons are impeccable. My soul often aches for these soldiers and their families, given the battle torn machines typically inherited.

Upon my return to church at age 25, I soon came to love these men of the cloth, never desiring to be one, but rather to serve those who were. I saw my role as playing second fiddle!

I'll never forget being visited by a couple elders after having served in a church for only a couple years while also deeply engaged in our community. These men were representing a church of a different denomination nearby our first home. I was being recruited to take the position of their lead pastor. I was shocked by these two men, as they described the peril of their church under this particular pastor, whom I knew. I declined and recommended they leave, but they left me with a deeper determination to undergird the pastor's in our community.

I soon held a denominational role engaging men within the churches around our state, thereby encouraging their support in building strong churches around each local pastor. I was an associate as well in our small congregation, though both roles were volunteer, my income stream by way of a then meager teacher's salary.

As I later pursued graduate work, I found myself in classes on the cutting edge of leadership theory, community development and funding strategies. All this seemed to add value to the church in general and my church cohorts always gave me audience for ideation, some even executed upon. I assumed that the Lord was preparing me for full time ministry with a heart for cities, and so it was, but in such a different way than I realized.

When I finished my masters, I was directed in a different and undeniable way that would lead to a departure from the church machine which until then, I thought I was being trained for, surely becoming proficient at someday managing alongside a truly visionary pastor.

I resigned my ministry roles and began a trajectory and preparation for a track toward public school superintendent and completed a third degree in Leadership and Administration for certification purposes. I would come to better understand community and even view church from a new vantage point.

I now know that was a gift few pastors have as a part of their resume.

Somewhere mid-degree, a well respected and successful pastor from my hometown began conversations about his challenges with a burgeoning congregation. My earlier burden for the work of the Lord was revived and moved me to resign my career track. That decision required us to relocate as family from our recently built custom home, one we had designed for use after a retirement at age fifty!

To me, when the home sold almost immediately, that was a sure sign, as such decisions are made often in the life of church leaders.

I would take what I had learned about community to an even larger church in order to better minister to my hometown; I could sense what God doing. Little did I know!

On the front-end these were perhaps the most rewarding years of my life. Everything we dreamed of for the church, seemed to fall into our laps. No small dreams, I must add, for we were talking multi-million dollar projects! Senior housing, dayschool expansions, inner-city dental clinics, partnerships with a massive hospital, grants by way of multiple nonprofits launched in collaboration with various churches across denominations.

Expanded and expensive acerage came to us easily, though competing with the needs of an adjoining university. They eventually came on board as partners. Keep in mind this was a Pentecostal church, fully functioning in the gifts of the Spirit, so seldom do such things happen, especially with a historically baptist university! Some of my readers will get that!

Why was I there? From my perspective, to reach a city, and three pastor's later, thirty years almost to the day, the only fruit that remains in my opinion were the relationships formed both with those in the congregation over the years, and with the leadership with which I interacted in the community at large.

What was God trying to say and allow this man called as a child to "preach the gospel" words I heard at age nine? The Good News was community, both within the congregation, as well as the municipality! Brick and mortar, even religion, a distraction!

Church as we know it today, (reference the link below), is not the "Good News" but a simply a time tested means of communicating a gospel of deep "koinonia" in Christ; grace and love the secret sauce.

The very language of "Good News, Gospel, Evangelion" was only used by New Testament writers as a mean to relate and communicate to a persecuted people about a better life than what the people in their day were experiencing under Roman rule. These conquering overlords, would often introduce themselves as bringing "Good News" even referring to themselves as "Sons of the Gods!

What timing for the true Messiah, God become flesh.

Jesus and later the Early church would pick up on the language, bringing a new life and a better way than the failed promises of their conquers. Even Constantine would seize upon this new movement.

Like each new conqueror in the days of the early church, each new pastor that came along to the churches we served (at that time all male) would quickly set out to establish their own vision, subduing those opposed to previous leadership and modifying approaches to ministry earlier resisted. Church growth always wins over city impact, though the latter is always the lead theme.

Why was I there, yes to serve, to coach, to connect with the community, but also to watch and to learn for a new day that was soon coming and we are there.

The machine, seen often as a "threshing instrument for the Lord" had begun consuming its best leaders, discouraging its most devoted of deacons, while neutralizing the hidden and long term damage with the notion that when one has done their best, but no further constructive change seems possible, the senior leader must move on.

Often the process is slow and painful, damaging to the families of that one seen earlier as "called of the Lord by way of our prayers" now become pariah!

As one pastor shared, their journey goes from "the best thing since sliced bread", to a silent search for a landing by way of one's denominational hierarchy, followed by a graceful resignation, a shared flat cake in the fellowship hall, and a then a new search begins for the church board...sounds so corporate!

God help us turn the corner which the church is now facing. with so many of her best leaving and with so many of the next generation desiring a new thing!

Maybe that's how it goes with humans and this God of love? If a thousand years is but a day, the good news is we are now early into only our third day of maturity! There is hope!

Change happens! Even more convincing is the fact that had I no sooner finished writing my response to the first link below, that I opened the second link attached, one even more affirming of this pivotal moment in the Body of Christ.

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Happy Labor Day

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