Thursday, September 11, 2014

Faith for Rebuilding

We've been working through a series of messages based on the book of Nehemiah, a series that was originally conceived by a church network that no longer exists. At the same time our local church has been going through transitions, with some folks who have been consistently part of the church since its beginning in 2010 choosing to go elsewhere for worship etc. This impacts us in many ways: some of the things we have "assumed" (like that we'd have certain people on hand for leading youth or being in the worship band) are no longer the case. And the "offerings" that the church has depended on (to pay my salary, for example) have decreased year to date in 2014 in comparison with 2013. I have often wondered what Crossroads Community Church will look like after this year.

It seems that the Lord is choosing to put us into "rebuilding" phase. The signs are abundant. I personally have been energized for this new chapter as I have studied the book of Nehemiah, as I have listened to the messages that were put together by our one remaining church network partner, as I've been able to spend prayer time with our church board of directors, with youth leaders from the area, with our group of prayer warriors, the men's Tuesday night Bible study and our awesome high school JAM Wednesday night. Then there is the "Love INC" initiative that is attracting some interest in our DC area and ongoing Holy Spirit guided encounters and relationships that God blesses us (and me) with, and that allow us to be used to bless others. I could not list all the signs of God's "push" into rebuilding. There are far too many and there are many that I can't even see. This does not seem to be a time of retreating. It seems like a time for advancing further into the ways and plans of God.

Still, if we are being called to "rebuild" after we've suffered some setbacks as an organization and as a fellowship, "rebuilding" does not mean that the future will be the same as the past. The city walls rebuilt by Nehemiah we not exactly the same as they had been, and they were certainly different (smaller) than those of King Solomon's day. The people were different, the times were different, resources were not as abundant. (Of course, abundant resources doesn't necessarily mean things will be done in a good way. The Jerusalem of Solomon's day was destroyed because of unfaithfulness. We don't want that to happen. Smaller is not necessarily worse.)

Here's a personal example: I don't know how long pastors like me will be able to depend upon the local church for our middle-class sustenance. (I've seen this as a trend in the wider world, and perhaps later I'll take time to make a link to an article based on research.) In any case, the Lord been teaching me, over the past year or so, about the wisdom of "multiple elder-ship" (instead of "senior pastor-ing") as the Holy Spirit preferred way of local church leadership.In addition to that, my study of the book of Nehemiah has pointed out verses like this...:
...The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. (Nehemiah 5:14-19)
...verses that remind me of what the Apostle Paul said...
If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. (First Corinthians 9:11-12)
Here's the personal stuff:

Before I came on to serve as pastor of Crossroads, I was asked by the launch team what salary I would need to stay here in Cokato, and ever since then the church has provided that amount. The amount was not enough to allow me to provide health insurance for me and my wife, so I took on the regular school bus route in Sep. 2011. I've done that ever since too. But I wonder, in this "rebuilding" phase, whether things will stay the same. I wonder that for practical financial reasons (re: "church finances") and as I already mentioned, I wonder that because of the possible move to authentic "multiple elder-ship" and true and full Holy Spirit community sharing that we have studied in the book of Acts.

So this leads to the question that I perceive the Lord to be asking me. Am I willing to enter into this "rebuilding" with a mind and a heart that is like Nehemiah's or Paul's? As we come into this fall, when my "pastoral agreement" (i.e. "contact") is up for re-negotiation, am I going to look first at what the Lord is desiring for our fellowship and only secondly at my own financial and professional well being? Or am I going to cling to a pattern of life that may not be what the Lord wants for us in this season?

The question, in the end, is one of trust and faith. I say that I trust God. I know how faithful God has been in the past. I know the promises of God's Word. Will I trust God and be willing to do just as He says? Will we do that as a local church? Will we be willing to say, "Okay God, we will follow your plans, not what we are accustomed to, even when we are tempted by fear, even when we're tempted to retreat to the familiar."

I used my own personal, professional situation as an example. I'm not saying here that things will definitely change, and as we spend time together in study and prayer, we may be affirmed in some ways as to how things "are." My question is just whether we will be open to doing what God says, when we, together, discern what that is.

Do we have FAITH for rebuilding according to God's plan? Time will tell, so let's pray and study and remember the excellent promises of God. He will not fail us. We can trust in Him.

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