Recently, Jim, Tricia and I were chuckling over all the wide-eyed assumptions we made in our living rooms in Simsbury about what planting imagine was going to look like, and how our little missional church was going to function. We had charts and diagrams. We wanted to be ready for the people God was going to send us; not a bad thing, just largely irrelevant to what we are experiencing in Northampton so far.
So in the nether world of half asleep/half awake this morning, a number of thoughts drifted through from our experience here for a little over 2 years.
1. Planting a missional church is much harder to do than we could grasp (and we did not think it would be easy), and will take focused patience and persistence for many months. I think we thought more people would've stuck at this point. Keeping after it for the long haul will be required.
2. God brings the people and moves them to stick around or get involved no matter what we do or don't offer on Sunday morning.
3. Focus on mission is how all Christ-followers should live. We're all missionaries and the Kingdom of God is our prime directive no matter our jobs, talents or resources.
4. As an introvert, one of the ways I'm summoned to carry my cross is to engage people I don't know, and open myself to what others need of my time and energy.
5. The challenge, pressures and stress of planting imagine/Northampton are forcing me to fan into flame gifts I've let sit dormant and exercise public leadership beyond where I'm naturally comfortable.
6. The strategies and methodologies I studied in the church planting books I read have fallen by the wayside in favor of simply engaging people on their terms and listening to their hearts with the possibility of sharing the hope that's in me because of Jesus.
7. Being involved in imagine/Northampton has opened me to all sorts of experiences I never had in my previous 20+ years of ministry. At the same time, the training I had as a counselor, spiritual director and retreat leader has been extremely useful to God's purposes here.
8. My drumming is deepening technically well beyond what I thought possible. God is opening and returning creative/improvisational sensibilities I let go of when I laid down music as a profession at age 30. I don't know why God is doing so just yet.
9. I'm supposed to write at least one book.
10. My understanding of church has been revolutionized and drawn away from cultural trappings I took for granted for 35 years.
11. We have miles to go as a church, but all of us know we were called here and have a desire to see people open to Jesus. All of us are being stretched, and are learning to keep going in the face of substantial and persisting difficulties.
12. People consistently affirm what we are doing which buoys our spirits.
13. We still have gifts missing in our community and wait eagerly for them to arrive.
14. We've made a tangible difference in the lives of some folks here. There is much more to be done, but we are doing some of what we purposed to do. That's wonderful.
15. Money is a great lever for ministry. It expands the possibilities. Lack of money increases resourcefulness and sometimes creativity, but its lack does limit range influence at any given time.
16. Prayer opens the way and creates possibilities beginning only as dreams and wisps of visions.
17. I still can't believe we are actually here after all we've endured, and still endure, but here we are!!!
18. My love for the people God has brought to imagine deepens. I want them to know Jesus and be alive in him. I've gotten to know some amazing folks.
19. I still believe that creativity must be cultivated and unleashed in the church to reflect the wonder, beauty and truth of God. We have the sensibilities and gifts to do so, but need more courageous creatives willing to make a new way with us. We need fearless "wonderers!"
20. If we do not engage people who do not follow Christ, we miss the point of imagine/Northampton. Our call is to them and to broken believers who need time to heal and re-focus.
21. imagine/Northampton is still a wicked cool name for a church!
Them's my thoughts and I'm stickin' to 'em.