In December of 1990
I was recognized (ordained) as an elder(pastor) of Great Commission Association of Churches. I was 21 which is the age at which you’re smartest, of course. After 3 years as a solo pastor at Mountain View Community Church, I joined the pastor who had mentored me and we merged our two churches in Rio Rancho into Rio West Community Church. I pastored with him (and eventually four other elders) until 2008 when Rio West planted a church with me and one of our other Co-elders from Rio West. This church plant came to be called Lifesong and we had almost five productive years. When I say productive, I mean we added members, we changed lives, and we built disciples and leaders; what we didn’t do was keep more members than we lost. We didn’t grow numerically and in America a church which doesn’t add numbers is roughly equivalent to a business which doesn’t make a profit. It’s just not sustainable. The leadership agreed it was better to shut the doors while members were still feeling good about the experience, and send them off while they still had energy and experience to share with other churches. For the most part this worked. Two years later I find that almost all of the members who were there when we closed the doors are now involved, committed and in most cases leaders in whatever church they have become part of since that time. You can read about this time of my life in my book The Hidden Life
For me the last two years have been ( and continue to be) a sort of pilgrimage for “next.” I’ve begun to expand my volunteer service to other churches with an occasional conference into a full time ministry with many more conferences, coaching, and support for churches.
Of course in my pilgrimage, where to attend church was one of my first questions. For the first time since college, and the first time ever for my kids, we were without a church home. Where were we going to go to church now? You can read about that pilgrimage in this blog under the category “Pastormac’s Pilgrimage.”
We did find a church with humble earnest leaders and a good understanding of Grace, more than one in fact, and the one we call home is Paragon Church with Pastor Matt Sellers.
That’s been my journey to Paragon, but as often happens there is more to this journey. It seems that something was happening from the beginning that I’ve only fully begun to realize in the last two years. My difficult formative years at Mountian View, my pleasant building years at Rio West, my exciting sharpening years at Lifesong and my quieter reflective years at Paragon have all been part of a larger search, something I’m calling the search for church.
In this Sunday Morning blog series I would love for you to join me in exploration of what church is, of why church is.
This is more than a theoretical theological question but one which drastically affects how we choose to do church in 2015 America and beyond. To quote one of the smartest guys I know
There is a tension in Scripture between the formal structures of a church and the dynamic Spirit-led life of a church. Both are necessary, and both need to support rather than detract from one another. One consequence of that is that there are a variety of things we need to work at “reinventing” every generation. To some degree, that has to happen with doctrine. To another, with church programs. In neither case is the reinvention supposed to start from scratch. It’s always supposed to take advantage of what it has been handed. But also, in neither case, does the new generation have the right to fail to engage with reinventing it to some degree, or we close out the leading of the Spirit to that degree.
By the way this smart guy has a blog you can visit here. He also happens to be my brother.
Today I’m just introducing the topic so before I leap into my thoughts, let me pose the question I felt God posed 6 months ago to me. I realized I was then a free agent. I was a pastor with no flock, no expectations or requirements and yet I still felt the compulsion to disciple, to shepherd. And the question came,
“If you could structure a church any way you wanted with a blank slate, if you had absolutely no requirement to follow any tradition or previous ideas of church structure, if you could start entirely with the why and build the what around it, what would you do?”
That question, as you’ll see in later blogs, led to me being an intern/potential church planter with the Baptists. That’s a definite bend in the road I didn’t see coming! Suffice it so say for now that Paragon is giving me the freedom to run a serious experiment in return for my building what I learn into their own small groups, something I am eager to do. I am hopeful this experiment will turn into a unique and effective church plant which may look nothing like your idea of Church at all.
I still love traditional churches, and know their pastors can and do make a difference in people’s lives. I still desire to help the pastors in these churches to be the most effective they can be. Nothing in my search is intended to imply any disrespect or lack of hope in what my fellow pastors are doing. I’m not angry with the church. I’m not scornful of the church. But I wonder seriously if we’re coming to a day when the institution as we see it will no longer function with the structures upon which we rely so heavily. The church is God’s arm for discipleship, for being salt and light, and for changing the world. That’s a big responsibility. Jesus is to be the head of the church, and we must let Him lead as He determines, even if it’s uncomfortable for us
See you next week!
Smiling at the future,
David “Pastormac” Megill