It was an intense week…
and in many ways a harder week on this leg of the journey and it’s only Tuesday. This is not to say it was all negative, but it was pretty much all emotional. Rather than stifle you with details let me just run you through the highlights. If you happen to be one of my praying person, you will find this makes a pretty good prayer request list also.
At the end of last week
I had a very significant conversation with a thoughtful earnest friend of mine who may not yet realize it, but is in the grip of God and His story. She is courageously exploring the idea that there is more to life than she previously thought and is very interested in possibilities of what the Gospel might hold. At her invitation I shared with her my understanding of the Gospel and as we wrapped up the conversation, I was pondering a couple things. It is always encouraging to share the incredibly good news of the Gospel with someone who is truly interested and so of course that was a good moment. AS I walked away from the conversation though I was also thinking about how perfect Lifesong would have been for her as she continues to explore and how I feared that it was possible all the churches I’ve visited were too “churchy” in their format to appeal to her need for discovery. This is not a critique of any of the churches, all of which have blessed me in some way, but a recurrence of my general concern that apart from the tradition church attenders are used to, there is nothing in the format of the contemporary”church” as it now stands which would inspire a truly seeking person to think they could find what they were seeking for there. This is not to say that some churches can’t inspire despite the format or that God can’t inspire in any format, but that our format, our view of what a church service ought to be may be counterproductive to the very people who need it most. The flock that roam from church to church will do so regardless of format, and have become comfortable and even demanding of certain kinds of grass in their field, but any seeking outside of that tradition have, possibly nowhere to really go. So this conversation was both very encouraging and a little frustrating as I realized that Lifesong was a structure I thought would be good for that, but in truth did no better at attracting people who were not already church folk, than the ones I’ve visited. So after my conversation with the girl who might be missing something I left wondering if I was missing something; not about God but about what I have to offer and bring to the table and how a church could really build such a unique community as I mentioned in a previous blog, one in which both prostitutes and college students, rich women and poor men, for example, could safely and fruitfully intermingle and minister.
Sunday Morning Hope irritated me,
That is to say, we visited Hope again and for some reason, which was not at all the fault of Hope, I was irritated almost immediately. Little things bugged me. The worship was as good as the time before, the teaching was excellent, and i was there with my friends, just as I was the week before, but I was annoyed, and slightly discouraged. It had nothing to do with the church or it’s service. It had to do with the question begun a couple of days earlier. My friend would, I suspected, never come to a church like this. But I don’t think that was entirely it either. I think it was the first time we’d gone twice to the same church and I think the fun of a pilgrimage journey had become a serious possibility of being a church attender and the passive nature of this (and all churches) was weighing on me. My family likes Hope a lot, and truth be told, I do too. But this was the conflict, the emotions I wrestled with during the service. I want to reiterate that the service was good, the teaching solid, and I noticed the number of adult sunday schools available for exploration and discovery.
Sunday Night was very encouraging.
My deacons and our wives finally got together to start the Tangible Kingdom study and it was very encouraging. The book definitely seeks to address the very questions I’ve been facing this week and it was good to get with these honest Godly men and women and question together. My encouragement was dampened though by the question which is becoming increasingly persistent.
Do I need to leave New Mexico?
The financial pinch which I felt while I pastored at Lifesong was temporarily held off by an extremely generous gift to my wife from an amazing friend. It helped us catch up, pay some bills and move forward a bit. However, the truth is that my sparse income was cut in half when I ceased pastoring and the positions of promotion I hope to apply for at Apple, have not yet opened up and it’s unclear if and when they will. The house we live in was in a loan under my father in laws name and though we’ve paid the mortgage for 8 years, our credit is not good enough to get a loan to put it under our own name so that’s been a bit of a nightmare and we may end up after all this losing the house anyway. Too much of my life (IMHO) has been plagued with financial stress for my wife. I’ve consistently made choices which reflected that finances were a low priority on the totem pole. We’ve been generous and I’ve chosen a career which has never been what you would call lucrative and generally isn’t (despite what you may be lead to believe by pop culture). In recent years, I’ve tried much harder to recognize the important priority of money and security for my wife, but it’s a hard habit to acquire. I am sure that there are confusions and deceptions in my head about finances, but none of the obvious ones (I tithe, I don’t have a lot of debt, I don’t gamble or spend money extravagantly). In some ways, I’ve made peace with the idea that God make the rich, rich and the poor, poor and I”m ok with being on the poor side of that. But I’ve also come to realize my great responsibility to not give my wife another 24 years of stress and financial struggle. I need to make decisions which will also provide security for her.
Two possibilities in the same place?
So on Saturday I met with the person who’s been most helpful and encouraging outside of Lifesingers themselves during this whole pilgrimage and process. He’s the one who invited me to the Pastor’s retreat and he’s been steadily supportive of my pilgrimage, as strange and varied as it’s been. Anyway, on Saturday some of his gentle, non pressure advice (which is how he does it) was to consider the possibility of moving and continuing as a pastor at another Great Commission church. One of the churches he mentioned was in fact in Colorado where he also pastors. This has appeal. I know his desire and conviction is to get pastor’s to a place where they are not bivocational but fully funded. This is also encouraging. Turns out at the same time that there is an Apple store in Colorado about 54 miles from the church which does have a position open, which is not out of reach for me and would mean a very significant promotion.
But what about…
And that’s the emotional roller coaster that’s been my week. Because moving to Colorado is not an easy thing and there’s no guarantee of anything. No guarantee of becoming a full time staff at this church, no guarantee of the promotion at Apple. I can continue my writing, my website and of course my conferences from there, so that’s good, but what about the Tangible Kingdom; what about all our friends here; what about my kids, one of whom is autistic and has found a very good inclusive school here, all of whom have deep connections here. So many what-abouts. I need to provide for my family; I need to minister to people; I need most of all to be where God wants me to be, and for the first time in my pilgrimage I think I’ve hit some crossroads (it was much easier when I was just waiting) and I”m not sure which road to walk down.
Thanks for following me on this pilgrimage. I promised honesty and here you’ve got it. This week, the pilgrimage was not so fun.
God really is faithful and good and cares about where I go.
That I believe.