Monday, December 8, 2008

Intensity and Blessing

I am so wiped out. As with any great high, there's the potential to crash hard. I'm there this morning. Which begs the question, "What was the high?" Certainly all pastors experience this to one extent or another. That's why Mondays have classically been the day many pastor take as their day off. However, this is different. Yesterday's "high" was born of several uncommon factors inserted into my pastoral Sunday/workday.

The backdrop to these elements is the pending closure of Woodcreek Bible Church. This is not a sudden thing, as though we were surprised by its approach; nor did the leadership wake up one morning and decide that they were tired of leading. On the contrary, staff and elders alike have poured our hearts into pursuing God's mission for this church. Nevertheless, the fruit of that labor has been a continued trajectory of decline in attendance and collective member energy. That's the bad news.

The good news is that God has provided an opportunity to for the healthiest developing instincts of the church to be realized. There isn't space here to cover all the details, but having a neighboring church (Gateway Fellowship of Royse City, TX) adopt us all at once will be a fitting completion of our church's strategic planning this year. Because of the fit it represents and the timing that appears providential, all of my work with Woodcreek Bible Church seems to have built up to this point. In other words - and this is quite significant for one who sees myself as more of a "trainer" than a pastor - it would seem that God called me to this church for the purpose of training it for this moment and this opportunity. This is not "spin." This is interpreting design and Providence in the manner that every believer must.

The illusive struggle to discover "God's will" for one's life is always fruitless - at least in the manner commonly pursued. Most often what Christians call "finding God's will for my life" bears a striking resemblance to fortune-telling and horoscopes. The Christian labels change, but the paganism is still detectable in how the pastor/counselor is treated like an old gypsy woman hovering over a crystal ball. "God wants you to go to college; major in aquatic archaeology and discover Atlantis," is the pronouncement sought from the counselee in the pastor's office. Solomon says that this is "meaningless" and chasing the wind. Nevertheless, people of genuine faith want to know that the wisdom they employ in making life decisions is both supplied by God and sensitive to his leading. Even if they are not paganly pursuing Christian fortune-telling, but instead are legitimately wanting to be led of God, we want evidence that we're being faithful to God's preferred design for us. We want to detect God's voice in the present saying, "Doing well, good and faithful servant." Therefore, the Christian is left with the same thing Israel had to go on: (1) this is what God pronounced should be our character, ethics, behavior, etc. and (2) this is what our experiences have been executing it.

All we can go on (far from fortune-telling) is to know the Word of God concerning our composition and character as a believer, and then examine how God has, in his Providence, cause obedience to his Word to play out in my experiences. In other words: (1) what does God require of me? and (2) what has happened when I've pursued those known requirements? This is what I call "interpreting design and Providence." It's a simpler way of expressing what is often stated as SHAPE:

What is SHAPE?

S - Spiritual Gifts - What are you uniquely gifted to do?
H - Heart - What do you love to do?
A - Abilities - What natural talents and skills do you have?
P - Personal Style - Where do your personal traits best suit you to serve?
E - Experiences - What has your past situations prepared you for?

Your SHAPE can determine your ministry focus.

"SHAPE" is a legitimate means of Christians evaluating their sensitivity to God's leading in their life, without degenerating into fortune-telling. It's interpreting design and Providence.

All that to say this - this strategic adoption opportunity for our church appears to fulfill my "SHAPE" as it relates to the church I was called to in 2007. Therefore, I'm very personally vested in it. For me, this produced a high intensity level for me all Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was preparation. Sunday was execution. The sermon was eerily pertinent to the strategy plans facing us, and after lunch the business meeting was the completely revealed fruit of all my labor. To describe the whole morning and afternoon as "intense" is to discover new levels of understatement. After a brief "veg" period at home in front of the TV, I went back to the church to give the same presentation again to all the Gateway leadership, plus give any background on myself and discuss "adoption" plans with them from 7 to midnight. The whole day was an intense high.

It also was a great blessing too. This blessing started early as well, when Sunday school was well attended, experiencing good discussion on the study topic. It continued through the main service as we took of the communion Table together, expressing meaningful worship. I enjoyed delivering the sermon, and people seemed receptive. After lunch, the business meeting (which could have been quite scary) was conducted with grace, understanding and sincerity from everyone. Later that evening, 5 hours of planning and discussion ensued with Christian brothers that feel like colleagues already. It was as pleasing as it was exhausting.
*There's an analogy I could use here referencing other exhausting pleasures, but I've decided not to.

God provided both intensity and blessing to coexist. Just because one comes down hard from a "high" does not mean that the "high" was somehow unhealthy. Would that all believers experience the Spirit's leading and powerful filling in such a draining manner.

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