Thinking about the guys being ordained this as and last weekend reminded me that for me and cohort we are coming up to the tenth anniversary of our ordinations (actually mine is in September).
Looking back, the first thing struck me is the number of people I have lost touch with (other than the odd ‘like’ on facebook).
Yet as I think back, a few things struck me about the 10 years was…Thinking of some of the guys I trained with one thing struck me, two guys full of charm, charisma and great gifting both ended up in prison due to dreadful behaviour…
A real shock.
And a real tragedy.
Glittering prospects ended up crashing and burning.
So important to be people of integrity and appropriateness in all our relationships, and to hold ourselves to account with trusted people to have those transparent relationships… Perhaps if my former colleagues had done so, perhaps they might still be in ministry and real people wouldn’t have been hurt and the cause betrayed.
Made me wonder too whether we put too much store on people’s competence, charm and charisma and not enough value on character.
Another thought struck me comes from one of my prayer triplet, who was very doubtful and anxious about future fruitfulness, yet 10 years later he had achieved amazing things and now chair of the committee for mission for the Church in Ireland amongst other achievements.
I guess as I think of my cohort I guess I am reminded of the verse of the bible which talks of God opposing the proud but lifting the humble.
I remember having to write a letter to some emerging leaders as part of my arrow course and I remember writing do keep the most important thing (Jesus) as the most important thing, as it is so easy to get distracted and diverted. I have found that clergy can be like the government ministers in Yes (Prime)Minister who actually go into parishes and Churches full of vision and fire and end up becoming “native” being “house trained” by the congregation acting like the civil service in the aforementioned comedy programme. We want to tell people about Jesus and somehow we end up filling in forms about drains, and trying to pacify arguements over trivialities.
Ten years on I still love Jesus but feel as though I am only managing to hold into his church by my fingertips, the temptation (as with many people my age) is to embrace being ‘post church’ partly due to just seeing how unchristlike churches can be, sometimes behaving worse than the people who aren’t Christians in the world… This shouldn’t be so.
Sadly too often it feels like trying to lead the charge onward for mission only to find some unprincipled parishioner had left down your tyres… How do we challenge and change this culture? The challenge to challenge people who have been here decades and are twice our age, but people need to know that such behaviour jepodizes the community coming to Christ and coming to fullness and to be that salt and light of truth telling is painful, uncomfortable and difficult. We all want to be liked and yet the call has often been to be the grit in the oyster, the bringer of challenge, and to show and tell a different story, one of a different future.
This future is one of hope, and yet being caught in the middle of challenging churches, it is easy to allow our vision of hope to be deminished and to become jaded and cynical. How do we keep our hearts soft, our minds open and expectant for God to act, this is not nativity but rather remembering the greater story of a God who reigns on high and longs to partner with his people to turn this broken and upside down world the right way up for him.
And finally to end all, the last thought I want to share is the call to change and transform is a call to the long hall, it’s not glamourous, often it is hard to get back up after being knocked down and after disappointments, but even so it is worth it.
So to conclude, the challenge of the heart, the challenge to invest in character that lasts rather than charm and charisma that are pretty tempory,
To keep out edge sharp and keep the most important thing as the most important thing, keepin going even when the “home team” let us down and hurt us, and to keep going even amid the on going challenge to still be here and fighting, to still be remaining in the game is an achievement.
I’ll close with a verse that has blessed me over the last 10 years “Do not become weary in doing good for at the right we will reap a harvest if we do mot give up” Gal. 6:9.