I remember not so long ago spending a day with another pastor in London whose work had caught my eye. He caught my eye because it seemed to me that he had been on a very similar journey in terms of how he understood ministry and mission, but who was also a good few steps beyond where I have got to so far. He was actually doing the things that I was still working out. I met him just the once, and decided that I wasn’t going to seek to meet with him again. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get to know him or even learn just a little more, but I had a strong sense to walk away from the temptation to seek to replicate him rather than continue on my own process. In many ways, he was a different character to me, but it was quite scary how much we spoke the same language.

There is also a tension in leadership between serving the community you are in and fulfilling the wider vision for your own leadership. I’ve often been in places where the full scope of one’s own vision has to be lessened or even sacrificed for context. That’s right and good in some ways. On the other hand, it is important to remember that much of the journey God takes us on as leaders is very much for a purpose, so when a church calls you and God sends you, he’s sending you with all the thinking, convictions, passions and skills that he’s grown in you so far.

So there is then the discernment process that goes something like, ‘God, what is it of what you’ve been teaching me that you want to bring to the forefront in this context?’ Sometimes just identifying the question is a great place to start. This is a question I’m living with at the moment at the start of a new phase of ministry at HBC, both for me and for the church. God is the match-maker.

I’ve got something of an opportunity coming up this week to share some of what that might be with the wider church, and that is an exciting opportunity. To identify the links that God is making between your passions and skills, and the church’s passions and aspirations is often a joy. Working them out, however, takes patience and time.

Like many leaders, I’ve known the strong mix of joys and frustrations in ministry working these questions out. I am increasingly convinced, however, that you must live your questions. How can I be ‘this’ in such a way as it helps the church be ‘that’? How can I live true to ‘this’ in order to impact ‘that’? I think you get the drift.

One thing is certain, in this exciting but terrifying stage of existence for the church as a whole in the 21st century, courage must be the need of the day. The ever widening gap between the culture of the church and the culture of society, for good or ill, demands new ways of thinking, doing and being. In truth, I think its fair to say that none of us in ministry really knows anything very solid!! We’re in a scenario fairly unlike we’ve every been before. Sometimes shifting our understanding from being preservers of the status quo to pioneers of new possibilities is the most honest thing we can say, and the thing which creates permission to try, permission to fail in the hope that God will help us, together, unwrap a different tomorrow.

What is stopping you?

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