One of the real blessings of starting a missional community is that the lines between personal life and “church” begin to blur as one seeks to live out the calling to “be the church” instead of simply “going to church.” One of the real challenges for me, as a full-time pastor, is classifying what parts of my life are “work” and what parts of my life are “family” or “personal” time. Truly, it is a beautiful dilemma! Let me give you some examples:
I’ve just helped launch the “Watch D.O.G.S.” (Dads of Great Students) program at my kids’ elementary school. The program is designed to get more men involved in their child’s education by volunteering at least one full day a year to volunteer at the school. On that day, the men provide a positive male role model for the kids by helping out in the classroom, lunchroom, recess, etc. They also provide additional security by checking doors, “patrolling,” etc. throughout the day. They can help reduce bullying by being another set of eyes and ears at the school. We launched the program last week, and already we have every available day in March filled with a volunteer Dad/father-figure!
As a dad, I believe in the value of this program. As a a dad and a pastor, I want to do everything I can to help the local school be the best, safest place it can be for learning. As a pastor and follower of Jesus who seeks to embody the gospel in our community, I want to minister to all of those kids and parents that are in single-parent families (the fastest-growing demographic in our area).
I’ve also been amazed at how many opportunities have come up to help in my neighborhood. At our old house in Marysville, it took us over a decade to build even a few substantial relationships with neighbors. I don’t know if it is just the difference of life on Camano Island, or if it is our intentionality and openness to forging new relationships, or if it is the Holy Spirit stirring things up. My suspicion is that it is a combination of all three things – but primarily the work of the Spirit! In the coming weeks I will be watching a neighbor’s child before school so that she can make her nursing classes at a community college. I’ve been able to do this with some other kids in our missional community this year. I have to take my kids to school anyway, I have a flexible schedule, so it doesn’t negatively impact my day to help in this way. I’ve been helping another neighbor with some things that he needs for his business. And there are other opportunities as well. Sometimes, just walking out to my office (in my shop) I will end up having a conversation with a neighbor walking by that will end up being more significant than I would’ve thought possible. The real power of what is happening in all of these circumstances is the timing. I can’t share details, but there are some incredibly significant things happening in some of these relationships and I believe without a doubt that it is God’s timing.
I could also talk about coaching, volunteering every week in my kid’s classroom, weekly dinners at the local restaurant, the impact of fixing up and living in a derelict property in the neighborhood, and more! The truth is, not having a “church office” to go to every morning has been one of the best things that has ever happened in my ministry! However, it is also difficult, because I feel like I can more easily justify my time as “work” when I am sitting at a desk or sitting in a meeting. It is much harder to define that time as I engage in many of things we need to do to launch missional communities.
I share this because Tidelands is moving into a different phase of our life beginning with Easter 2013. We are now looking for that office space, and perhaps even a small space for worship attached to that office space. We will begin meeting for worship every Sunday morning. More of my time will be spent preparing sermons, planning music, prayers, etc. In a way, I look forward to being able to spend more time teaching and leading people in worship – it is what I love to do and it is essential to our life as followers of Jesus. And yet, I don’t ever want to lose what I am experiencing now. I don’t ever want to minimize the importance of these other opportunities or limit my ability to engage with others where they live, work, and play. And this is why, if we’re going to do this well, we will always need our leaders and staff to be active members of a missional community.