Psalm 127:1 says plainly: "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
In these first weeks and months of launching imagine/northampton, I am learning to hold loosely the great dream and persistent desire that lives within me to make this launch happen.
I would hope that those of you reading my blog get a sense of how much passion I have for this work. It is no light matter to me. I am in "lock, stock and barrel" because I am convinced that the Church is the hope of the world. The people of Northampton who are far from Jesus are worth every ounce of effort I can spend to open them to him. Imagine/northampton is our way of doing so.
People who know me well know I am a man of passion, in general. My heart is fired by what I value. I hate lukewarm and passive. Willful indifference angers me. However, the downside is I can let my desire to see something happen get the best of me. The result is eventual frustration that, if not corralled, can sink me into a malaise, or worse, depression. I can't afford for that to happen.
So, I am learning to hold all of what needs to occur quite loosely. It plays out as a "long obedience in the same direction" these days. I keep my eyes on the horizon in the direction I am trying to head--one foot in front of the other; one day at a time. Some days feel like good progress is being made. Some days feel like "the faster I go, the behinder I get." A few feel like I settled into the groove and kept in step with the Spirit: a door was opened, someone showed up who moved it all forward a bit, things went as they felt they should and tangible progress was made. I like those days, and I know it was God who made them be.
Lately, I am finding this holding it all loosely business and letting God actually build this house occurs in three ways for me:
1. As you would expect, launching a church requires the gifts and efforts of all sorts of people besides the Leadership Team, no matter how skillful it might be. Often they "show up" unexpectedly through a series of connections outside of our awareness: someone talks to someone and gets in touch. We are experiencing that with very gifted and accomplished people. So I get really excited, but if I am not careful, my design of making an impact that moves people beyond where they are kicks in with a vengence, and I try to maneuver them into position before God has given the command in accord with his exquisite timing. Because my desire for them to come on board can overtake me, and if they don't, frustration and disappointment will settle in, I am learning to be supportive and enthusiastic, while surrendering to God's moving things along as suits him. It's a nice freedom to live in I'm finding.
2. The same holds true for all the critical pieces of the logistical puzzle that needs to be put in place. Currently, we need a suitable venue to hold our first worship on Easter weekend. Where will that be? We need to form a worship team. Who will be on it? We need technical equipment. Where will that come from? We need all sorts of money to make this happen. When will it arrive? That's just for one worship gathering. There are a gazillion other issues to settle in the weeks and months ahead. Nevertheless, I am learning to let God build when the need must be met. I am amazed to see how God makes this happen without us. He brings it into being. Holding important logistical matters loosely lowers the stress of having to make it happen and opens the door to God's unparalleled ability to do only what he can. While we need to work and work hard, we can let it go too.
3. Lastly, I have found that creating concepts, events and structures teach the same lesson of the need to hold it all loosely. Because we have started on the groundfloor level, much of our initial efforts focused on issues like: What is the name of the church? What will we name our roles in the church, like I am a Spiritual Formation Catalyst? What will we name of events, like 6 Evenings of Conversation? How can we creatively avoid using Christianese and church jargon while retaining meaning, and not just be clever or cute with our terms? Even in this naming process we have watched God lead us to fresh ways of terming things.
One lovely result of this freedom is God increasingly becomes the focus of our awe and wonder as he does what is only his: to build his house. I find pleasure in watching him do this. It refreshes and delights me. Time in the trenches becomes enlivened as we are lifted to see his creative hand shaping it all into being.
I realize for us, "discovering the God who is far more than we imagine," is manifest these days more and more in seeing him conceive, birth, and grow imagine in our midst. He uses us for sure, but no one on the team mistakes our parts for his. I'm glad for that.
I know I need to keep learning this freedom, but I am cooperating better now than I have I think. It's about time.