Saturday, July 13, 2013

Notes, Neo, Small Victories, and a Way-point



One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about this blog was that it provided me an outlet to share my unvarnished thoughts and feelings on a wide range of topics.  And evidently, it was hitting a chord with people because at the height of activity on the blog (back in the proverbial day) it was doing a lot of traffic all over the world (I was huge in Australia).  I mean for goodness sakes, I received over 70 requests for my notes on “The Shack” alone…lol.  Uggh, The Shack...shudders.

Once seminary started, the posts took a dive; there just wasn’t time.  And besides, there’s enough blogs out there by seminary students who are attempting to solve the world’s problem one post at a time and the world didn’t need my noise.  When I received my appointment, a two point charge two hours from campus, well, the Cantankerous Christian went almost entirely silent.

As I began to stretch my blogging legs again, at the end of both seminary and a wonderful three year run in Breckinridge County Kentucky, I had found that my philosophy and approach to some things had changed.  This of course necessitated a change of focus in this blog.  To those ends, I’ve decided to share this new endeavor in South Louisville.  What is being attempted in South Louisville really is unique in numerous ways and a massive, truly enormous undertaking.  Already in the first three weeks, I’ve seen all of the big challenges we tend to face in ministry and a whole slew of new ones.

It is in those challenges and obstacles that I think this blog will truly find value.  It is my hope, given my penchant for being an open book, that perhaps I can provide a venue not only to share what we are doing, but perhaps more importantly, a resource for how and how not to tackle these challenges and obstacles.  Everything at this point in the journey seems magnified and very immediate, which ought to provide a nice laboratory for ministry.

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“You know those movies where people throw a pebble down in a pit to see how deep it is?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m that pebble and I ain’t hit the bottom yet.  Either I’m going to splat at the bottom or there’s going to be a nail scarred hand that snatches me out of the air right before I hit.”

This is the conversation I had with my new friend Harrison this week.  Now of course I was laughing as I said this because I really do thrive on the challenge, but the hole does keep getting deeper.  I can also smile and enjoy the ride because I know a secret that I’m confident will be revealed in time…God is doing something big.  I don’t know what exactly, I just know that He is.  Which no doubt helps to explain why I’ve rather enjoyed the first three weeks in this new adventure despite constantly hearing how big and impossible this is.  New things are constantly being unearthed and I’m still smiling, which is kind of awesome.  On the other hand, I do find myself picturing this scene from the "Matrix Reloaded" occasionally…Especially the dog-pile at the end.  I myself can't wait to stand up lol.

 

However, up to this point, I feel like we’ve I’ve been on a good run of small victories.  I say small simply because I’m not sure what big ones look like yet, but good things have been happening and things are coming together as I eat that ever growing elephant bite by bite.  Did you know elephant tastes like pizza?  Yeah; me neither, but thankfully it does.

I mention this because I feel like today unexpectedly provided an important milestone, one of those potential way-points on the journey that marks the beginning of something, hopefully one of those big victories.  Today we sent a small group of people into the neighborhood with “Listening Surveys”.  This was simply four questions that in essence asked: 1) Why don’t people go to church?  2)  Do you go to church? 3) What do you see as the greatest needs in this neighborhood? 4) What kinds of ministries would you like to see us offer?

There were no surprises on the surveys, which validated the work that I’ve put into the neighborhood for the past three weeks.  The overwhelming answers were 1) Laziness (lol) 2) I used to, but don’t anymore. 3) There is a lot of crime and the kids have nowhere to go 4) Reach the kids.  People as had been my experience were willing to share their thoughts and were quite friendly.  I also must add that I was especially happy to hear that word had already spread throughout the neighborhood that there was a new pastor on the scene.

This was great and I think very valuable on numerous levels for numerous reasons, but that way-point for me happened afterwards when the representatives of the two churches involved today (including the former pastor of Grace) were able to sit together and to share.  Within that, I was able to share my vision, my intent, my passion, and my excitement with the group.  It was within that you could feel everyone come together on the same page and to share in the excitement I’ve been espousing for the past three weeks.  Of special significance to me was the connection that the previous pastor and I were able to establish.  I now understand him and he now understands me, and it was a pretty awesome moment.  Not that there had been friction, but rather we’ve spent the past three weeks trying to manage the transition and to feel the other out.  Given that he remains a part of the congregation and was their pastor for 22 years, I feel like this was an important development as we move forward.

All of this to say is that it appears the foundation is now in place to start wrangling some bigger victories.  Ministry in this context, despite the aforementioned challenges, is really obvious; it isn’t hiding, it doesn’t have to be deciphered or discerned.  It is truly right at our door.  With everyone now at a place of shared understanding and excitement, we can now begin the process of preparing the first major shot into the darkness, which I hope to have in place by the start of school (August 20).  Things are happening!  Stay tuned!

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