Two thoughts that remain at the forefront of my mind as I stew in thankfulness about these pastorates.
First, I think what a privilege it is for me as a pastor to be a participant in this group. It is such a joy to have capable leaders who understand their role and are willing to let me just participate. As a pastor, that is a rare and precious privilege, and I am so grateful for it.
Second, I look forward to the future. As good as these beginnings are, I look forward to a few specific things that I hope and pray will become integral to our pastorates in the near future:
- I am so excited to see new people coming into our pastorates, to have so many people gathered together that we can't all fit in one house and we need to give birth to a new group. Part of this process will mean identifying leaders and giving them some experience. The end result is that we are in the process of planting new churches, in a very real sense, that will reach still more people.
- I am eager to have our pastorates begin to focus outward, to identify missions that they can take on, and run with those. This might mean having a "mission champion" in each pastorate that acts like a burr under the group's collective saddle, keeping people focused outward and just a little restless. The quickest way for these pastorates to become ingrown and selfish is if they do not engage in significant mission beyond themselves. So I am looking forward to seeing that part of our life together develop. I have little doubt it will come soon -- listening to people's thoughts and insights tonight, it was clear to me that we have a motivated group of people who understand this community needs to focus beyond ourselves.
- I anticipate the long-term effect these groups will have on the children involved. Over the last half dozen years I've seen the impact of parents being deeply involved in a Jesus-focused community. This involvement impacts both parents themselves and their children. I'm so excited for kids to have the experience of meeting together with their parents and other families in an intergenerational way that leads them to know and follow Jesus. We had a wonderful cacophony of kids tonight, and their play echoed up from the downstairs of the home where we met. But before they went off to play, one of our leaders sat with them and led them in a short devotional time, totally creative and appropriate to their level. Then their parents blessed them (the leaders had provided a printed blessing) and sent them off to do kids' stuff. It was gorgeous.
Yes, it has been a very good evening. And I haven't told you yet about the amazing theological conversations I've been having with my daughter Teya. Maybe another time. Suffice it to say she has learned over the years to ask really, really hard -- but good -- questions, and not to settle for easy answers.