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Monday, November 16, 2009

The way forward

Through the last six and a half years, and especially through the last ten weeks, I have been incredibly grateful for the team I work with at Central. Today again I was reminded of the caliber of these people as we began to talk in earnest about how to move forward. We have been so occupied with questions of the process of sharing information and bringing the congregation to the vote on November 8th, of caring for individuals who have been caught crossways in this conflict, and of the bare minimum of taking care of the necessities, that we have had little time for the specifics of how we move forward.

There are many questions that have to be settled before that one can be addressed in specific terms, but now -- not later -- is the time to begin the process of planning for the future. We are in a 90 day consultation period, in which the bishop and / or his representative will come to consult with the congregation and with the church council. At the end of that 90 days we will have a second vote to either deny or ratify the results of the November 8th vote. There are still constitutional requirements that have to be met and processes that need to be honored. But at this point the issues in question -- biblical authority, questions of sexuality and the Bible, and the proper role of leaders in the church -- have been addressed, debated, and voted upon. There is a moment now and then to take a deep breath and glance toward the future.

In the middle of this, I am reminded of Alpha. This fall an unbelievable team of volunteers has taken the Alpha ministry by the horns and led it in amazing ways. They have given themselves to this ministry and some -- many -- have made significant sacrifices to do so. They serve in this way because they know that there are spiritual battles going on around them and that the territory at stake in these battles is not a denominational affiliation, but the hearts and souls of individuals. Watching Alpha happen around me in these last weeks has been such a joy.

This is why I am so impressed with my coworkers, those volunteers who serve so faithfully, and with Central's pastors. As we begin to talk about the future, I hear no desire to be right, to win, to prove something. Instead, I hear biblical stories come to life. Whether in the overall question of where Central goes from here or the specific question of how to do Alpha this winter -- in these brainstorming conversations my colleagues are deeply rooted in Scripture, and it shows. At a level beyond calculation and strategy, they are immersed in the word of God and the hours they spend in his word bear fruit. That investment of time in the Bible is a mighty tool the Spirit of God uses to create the future he wants for Central. And I get to see it happening -- and be a part of it! What an honor.

If you are in a position to be looking for a church leader, or evaluating a current leader, take this to heart: Look for a person who is rooted deep, deep into the Bible. Listen for scripture to be woven into their thoughts and their words without second thoughts. This is not a biblical quotation like a President quoting Isaiah during a State of the Union address to sound Christian and appeal to a voting base. No, look for a person who makes sense of the world by holding what they see around them up against the Bible. The hard part of this evaluation is that you have to know the Bible yourself a bit to be able even to hear this. But it's worth the investment of time in your life, too.

I'm thankful tonight for parents, aunts, uncles, Sunday School teachers and even pastors who grew me deep into God's word so I can hear it in the words of others. I'm thankful for colleagues -- staff, volunteers, members -- who have let the Bible take root in them such that it comes out in their sentences and thoughts. It is such fun to watch the Spirit using these tools to lead us forward. It is awe-inspiring to know that we live as part of that same story.

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