Sunday, April 19, 2015

USA Weeks 2 &3 - Collaboration Force 10

These last days have passed as a blur.  The reason why we came here was to launch the first phase of  A New Kind of Preacher/Leader.  I have posted already about my wonderment that my preaching work at Northern is going to form the basis of an initiative funded by the Lilly Foundation.  Rather than focus on preaching (which seems the obvious route) I am going to concentrate on the preacher. Yes, the art and craft of preaching deserves attention.  But I am concerned more about the being of the preacher than the doing. What are the roles that a preacher needs to embrace as a child of God who is called to the improbable task of proclaiming as an ambassador of Christ?

One of the key roles that needs developing is COLLABORATOR.  Too many preachers are solo and isolated. Burnout and disappointment lie around the corner.  Co-laboring with others is pivotal for opening up preaching so that God can use it to transform his community to live together in unity for works of service (Eph. 4:16).  Actually, it begins by co-operating with our triune God, participating in fellowship and mission.

Being a collaborator is a demanding role as it develops to involve others.  It requires active listening with willingness to change, seeking God's agenda rather than ours.  Plenty of love, patience and time are essential to co-labor with others.  I call this post: Collaboration force 10 because those of us involved in leading this new initiative have found ourselves needing to model collaboration in an intense blur of planning meetings during my (too) short stay.  So much good has emerged.  On Wednesday this week we have called a meeting of partners to help us further flesh out the vision.  All kinds of details have become clearer.

I am so grateful for the face-to-face collaboration that has been possible.  All the conference calls and emails across the Atlantic cannot facilitate force ten collaboration like we have experienced!  We are on the way!  Thanks so much for your prayers and interest.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

USA Week 1

I look back over this last full week with wonder.  Every day we enjoyed meals with different groups of friends, including a couple of large groups who brought pot-luck suppers to share.  Among the highlights was a reunion with our First Friday group (which now actually meets on the second Saturday each month!) 15 gathered for a pot-luck supper.

Conversation among us was lively = noisy (as it always is!) The last part however was memorable. Time was spent going round the table as each of us shared a particular blessing for which we wanted to give thanks to God. I was struck by the seriousness and intensity as people took turns. A couple of people paid moving tributes to their spouses and families; others spoke about the quality of friendship and prayer support that the group had provided - several of us have been ill recently with three of us men undergoing cancer surgery. Another group member has just become engaged and he told us the story of his proposal on bended knee at the arboretum. Apparently, he shared his desire to marry a few years ago for support, and he gave thanks for the long-term prayers of members of the group.   Another gave heartfelt praise that his relatives who live on a farm in Rochelle had survived the tornado that had ripped the roof off their house and flattened farm building three days earlier. Another, told us how his daily devotions with his wife every morning had transformed his working days.

When we concluded with prayers for each other I marveled that we belong so securely to this group of friends.  As we drove home we said: 'This is real Christian fellowship - and the Atlantic cannot get in the way.'

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

Landing back in the USA two days ago, Carol and I have just celebrated Easter with the community at First Baptist in Wheaton (where I once served as interim).  The service began with dramatic video of a bleak landscape, one early morning.  A low drumbeat and musical murmur suggested something might happen, yet the camera moved very slowly towards a low hill in the distance.  Eventually, we could see a soldier standing guard alongside a large circular stone.  The beat increased.  The stone became center stage.  Suddenly, with crashing splendor the stone rolled back with brilliant light cascading from within the now empty tomb.  Christ is risen- He is risen indeed. Alleluia.  The choir and congregational singing lifted the roof:  Jesus Christ is risen today.

It was wonderful to be back with so many friends who hugged us with enthusiasm. And what a day to celebrate. For Easter changes everything.  In my recent reading I came across this prayer (by Ted Loder) which I make my prayer today.
O God, let something happen to me,
something more than interesting
or entertaining
or thoughtful.
O God, let something essential happen to me,
something awesome,
something real.
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me somewhere inside where it matters,
a change that will  burn and tremble and heal
and explode me into tears
or laughter
or love that throbs or screams
or keeps a terrible cleasing silence
and dares the dangerous deeds.
Let something happen in me
which is my real self, O God.  Amen.