Since I last saw my comrade in sticks manning a tollbooth on the Mass Pike a few weeks ago I have not been able to forget him. I keep thinking about his tenacity. He sits for a number of hours handing out tickets which means that during certain periods of his shift he is interrupted constantly by people needing one, and yet, he keeps practicing in the lulls. Drumming is his larger purpose. Staying fit for the art, no matter. Hmmm.
So I have also been thinking about this old man planting a church. How does he (I) stay fit so as to be tenacious in a difficult mission? My interruptions, obstacles and flitterings are many. What does this drummer have to teach me?
First, I think it means never taking my eye off the goal to which I have dedicated myself. "Dedicated" is an important word here. I have decided to give my best to this Kingdom mission, whatever it takes. The goal of planting imagine/northampton is one to which I am dedicating precious years and resources. I must not lose sight of it when the going gets tough, the fear is substantial and discouragement comes for an unwelcome visit. No room for faltering if I am dedicated. My eye must stay fixed on where God is bidding me.
For imagine/northampton to take root, my dedication needs to be fierce and tough. Planting churches is not for the faint of heart or the lightly committed. I am learning such dedication. God help me!
Secondly, I must remain flexible in how I maintain the necessary fitness required. More often than not it will not be convenient to maintain the disciplines and activities best suited to keeping me on course: prayer, routine administration, damage control, making new relationships, studying, searching, listening, writing, ministering, creating concepts, etc. I will have to find my own "tollbooths" to keep "practicing." Sometimes the most unlikely places and situations will be my only option to keep after what is needed. Being flexible opens me to opportunity I would likely overlook because I only saw an obstacle or setback.
Planting imagine/northampton requires I learn a freedom of flexibility uncommon to me. I am not rigid, but God still has work to do in "loosening" me for the mission. I want him to complete this in me. God help me!
Thirdly, I must let my love for God, people, and his glorious Kingdom fuel the drive to stay fit and ready to act regardless. Love sheds self-absorption, laziness and cowardice. Love motivates courage and invention. Love says "yes" when I'd rather say "no, not now." Love gets my butt in the chair, or my feet on the street to engage and work rather than wander in the garden of lesser delights. Love gathers passion toward worthy pursuits. Love also keeps my eye toward eternity and what is needful to be ready for it.
For imagine/northampton to take root I will need such depth of love. All of us on the team will. I want to be that loving. God help me!
Lastly, the drummer in the tollbooth reminded me that a "long obedience in the same direction," should be the prime directive of my heart and will. A will fixed on obeying God gets the job done no matter. I know grace is necessary in all of it, but I can choose to give my will to a myriad of glittering things. A will fixed on obeying what God desires opens the way for serving what matters most. When obeying is proven over a long time, God's Kingdom reign is planted in my life and the lives of others he gives me to serve.
Being made fit to plant imagine/northampton needs me obeying God consistently for days turning into months and flowing into years. I have a long way still to go with this level of obedience I'm afraid. But I desire it. God help me!