“Ministry is a marathon. It’s not how you start out that matters, but how you end. So how do you make it to the end? The Bible says, “Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:8). If you minister out of love, you can never be considered a failure.” – Rick WarrenThis touches a nerve for me. One reason I hold back from ministry commitment is that I’m not sure I can love enough. I have prayed for more love. When reading the story of Solomon and being reminded how wise he was to ask for wisdom, I’ve felt God ask me what I am asking for, and much as I love wisdom, I asked for love. I believe God answered that prayer by giving me opportunities to love others, and feel the stretch as different relationships demanded different kinds and amounts of love, patience, gentleness and other spiritual fruit. God has been opening my eyes and heart to the possibilities of what happens when we live in his love, not just our own. The fact that we can do that, receive from the source of selfless love, and not be limited by our own reserves and patchy histories of love mixed with selfishness, that is good news, gospel. As for Rick Warren – what a commissioning! His hero pastor blessing him with powerful words he would hold onto for years. We’ve got to remember how powerful blessings are, we must seek to pass on authentic words from the Holy Spirit, and know that we won’t know the effect of these until God shows us much, much later.
God makes the church grow!I’m loving this already. Don’t know why I had pigeonholed “Purpose Driven Church” in my head as a “how to” on making things grow. I realise that is God’s job – it’s been a big theme we have been sharing between us. The nice Californian picture of surfing is spot on – we don’t make the waves, we just spot them and ride them, and it’s the same working with God’s movements. Pastoring is therefore about sensitivity to God and balance (like a surfer) when riding the wave. And weirdly “the more skilled we become in riding waves of growth, the more God sends!” Also, a recognised principle among us – living things naturally grow. We don’t make them grow, it just happens, but we do have responsibility for the environment (so growth can naturally occur) and “to discover and remove growth-restricting diseases.” Health, not growth, is then the key issue. A healthy church will naturally grow. A growing church will not necessarily be healthy. So work on the health. (That’s easy to forget when we do “growth plans” – how are we doing on this?)
The book I’m about to start reading and thinking about again is “The Purpose Driven Church” by Rick Warren. I first read this about six years ago after a long period of doing very little at church other than turning up, singing, listening and being polite before going home. God grabbed my attention with Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life”, and that catalysed a trip back into some proper following of Jesus.At the same time, in my job I was looking to grow as a talent coach and leader. I love helping to develop people’s creative ability and their other gifts which they may or may not recognise as God-given. NLP was just starting to get fashionable in work circles, and I was a bit skeptical about its basis and effectiveness. But I was interested in finding out about it, as well as anything else which might help develop people. I think God grabbed my attention at this point and wanted me to spend time learning how he develops people, and I made a link and a leap. The link was starting to realise that God’s principles are ingrained in us and our world, we might not credit them as his, and we might rebel against them, but we can recognise them and they are GOOD. That’s how God made the world. When we are creative, we are doing something God loves doing, and reflecting some of the character of the creator. Is everything we create good? No, because we’re not God and we are corrupt, but the good news is that God made us to be with him and makes that possible in Jesus. And there is something attractive about Jesus, something a lot of unchurched, irreligious, rebellious, normal people recognise and respond to. The leap was to start testing a theory, which I’m still testing. What if God’s principles for how we grow and develop weren’t just attractive and useful in church, but also to the people I was trying to coach? As I got into this, I wanted to find out about the very best church practices I could find. Rick Warren’s church seemed like a pretty good place to start, and “The Purpose Driven Church” was a welcome revelation. Here was someone who took craft seriously, had some proven methods and not just untested theories, and had a very sensible sounding challenge for the church. Why weren’t we “purpose driven” too? I went on to read other books which had some useful criticism of Rick Warren’s approach, and I think there are lots of questions in my mind now about how useful “Purpose Driven Church” can be for bodies of post-modern minded people with few resources and little will to set up university-style training schemes or set up marketing plans. But I’m re-reading this now as part of a project with our church interns who will come together to share insights learned from this book, a more post-modern “Emerging Church” book by Dan Kimball and the radical “Organic Church” thinking of Neil Cole. I’m going into it hoping to be reminded of the solid, practical stuff I first loved about Saddleback but, more importantly, I’m wanting to marvel again at what the Holy Spirit can do when very different groups of people, in very different cultures, decide that following Jesus is the most important thing.