Sunday, October 2, 2016

Forum challenges

I am just coming down from the giddy heights of our forum on Collaboration.  Giddy because it brought together so many former students and other friends that reunions broke out on every side.  And giddy because our main guest speaker opened up a vista of collaboration that surprised/overwhelmed/shocked many.

Paul Allen is co-pastor of Evangelical Covenant Church of Hinsdale.  After last year's forum when I introduced the idea of a new kind of preacher, one of the attendees came up afterwards and said: 'Next year you really ought to invite my Pastor, Paul Allen. He really does collaborate!'  And so we did invite him!

Paul told us his personal story having served in several local churches.  He commented how much church conflict seems to be associated with the person and vision of the solo lead pastor.  Several times in his experience as an associate pastor he had witnessed a breakdown of relationships with the 'person in charge' which caused much hurt.  His own vocational vision grew along different lines. He believed that he was best fitted to become a co-pastor who shared ministry equally with others. He would definitely not become a solo pastor!

For 17 years he has developed this pattern in his Hinsdale church.  As associate co-pastors have come and gone each has stepped seamlessly into co-pastoring sharing the preaching equally (only notifying the congregation of the Scripture and theme every Friday....never the name of the preacher!)  Many others have also emerged in lay leadership to share in preaching too. Paul has developed sermon series based on the Christian year to which he invites the co-pastor and other lay preachers to choose texts leaving him an equal number.  He exulted how such collaboration spills happily over into every other area of church life.  With humility he quoted: 'Every pastor is an interim pastor' as he stressed the need together to listen to God and work in love.

He mentioned Ps 77:20: 'You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron' .  Note, he said, how we often think of Moses as a solo authority figure but, it was by the hand (singular) he worked with Aaron and God!

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