Joy is one of the most compelling forces in the world—when people have it, and it’s real and flowing from the depths of their souls, you know it. If so much of discipleship is about embodiment and imitation, then it is a pastoral responsibility to live the kind of lives that other people would want to have. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts on how to truly enjoy this journey we call church planting.
Often in our pre-gathering conversations on Sunday nights, I say something like, “We are one church on a small island that is a part of a chain of islands that make up the most isolated land mass in the world. Our chain of islands in Hawaii is a part of one country on a planet that has 196 countries. Our planet is part of a universe that–let’s not even get started on that. Also, there are roughly seven billion people on the planet right now, and it is believed that there have been about 180 billion people since the dawn of humanity, and tonight we are going to gather with less than a hundred of them.” At this point in the conversation I say, “and somehow the work we do together is the most profound and important work in the world.” Our pastoral work lives on the paradoxical edge of being virtually obsolete and of paramount importance.[Tweet “pastoral work lives on the paradoxical edge of being virtually obsolete and of paramount importance”]
Our communities are invisible to most of the world, yet they are the most beautiful vision. They are places that most do not care about, yet they are places in which people can be cared for most. They are hidden streets to most sojourners, and yet they are the very avenues to God’s future. These paradoxes allow me to care about the church and church planting more than anything in the world and, at the same time, acknowledge that no one really cares about what I am doing. This existential acknowledgment allows me to be free enough to enjoy this. It loosens my bearings. It destabilizes my ego. It playfully removes me from the center of everything. It makes me feel lighter. It puts my life and work into perspective. It helps me to embrace the limitations of my humanity—and that’s a good thing. It frees me to take my work seriously and yet not seriously at all.
Continually Ask “Is Faithfulness Enough?”
Every morning during the first year and a half of our church plant here in Honolulu, as I sat on my porch in silence or looked out from the expansive horizon of mountain ridges overlooking the ocean, I kept one question before me: Is faithfulness enough? I define faithfulness as simply doing my best, as authentically as I can, to respond to God’s call on my life.
I kept this question before me because I knew that if I could answer it with a yes each time, then I was free. I was free to try to create something real instead of something that simply works. I was free to allow the Spirit of God to shape our church into who she was intended to be without being driven by the unspoken cultural expectations and tyrannical cultural metrics that haunt each and every pastor trying to forge a new path. And, ultimately, I was simply free to be myself. I could live with the creative courage God was inviting me into with all of my energy, and, regardless of the outcomes, I could sleep peacefully at night because I knew I had done all I could do.
Accept The Gift
The Bible does not start with what is wrong with humanity and what is bad about the world, the Bible starts with what is right with humanity and what is good about the world. The world’s broken and in need of healing, but it’s also beautiful and in need of enjoyment—and we take this calling to enjoy the world just as seriously as our calling to heal it. Before you gather, before you preach, before you come up with a strategy in how to decentralize and disciple, before you do anything, receive–you’ve been given a gift by God.[Tweet “The world’s broken & in need of healing, but it’s also beautiful & in need of enjoyment.”]
You’re breathing right now. You can probably walk. More than likely, you have the capacity to listen to your favorite music. You can feel the warmth of your children’s little bodies as they bury themselves in you because they find in you the place where everything makes sense to them. We must learn to experience the miraculous in the mundane and the sacred in the same.[Tweet “We must learn to experience the miraculous in the mundane and the sacred in the same. ~K. Sweeney”]
As pastors, we should be the ones who are most awake, most alive, most joyful, and most in tune with the divine heartbeat that pulses through all of creation. Grace is the mother of joy, so joy expresses how everything we do for and with people flows out of the grace we’ve experienced for ourselves. We need to learn to rest in and live from a place of grace (which means gift) before we charge into the world proclaiming its message.
Having a perspective on the size and scope of our ministry, trusting that faithfulness is enough, and placing everything we do in the context of life as a gift will help us enjoy this challenging and beautiful adventure of church planting.
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