7 August 2008

There and Back Again: Thoughts and Reflection from Glasgow to Hungary

There's nothing like returning home from a week away to the shrieks and squeals of, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!!" This was a first for me as I recently returned from Christian Associates' CONNECT conference in Sopron, Hungary.
But perhaps I'm getting a little ahead of myself. In the past six weeks I've been commissioned as a pastor at Mosaic, operated on twice, and in Hungary for the conference... and it looks as though things are just starting to get busy.

I've been extended the honor of serving as the shepherding pastor in Mosaic. What exactly does this mean? Are we one of those churches that has a different "pastor" for every area of ministry? No (not that there's anything wrong with that). It simply means that I will be living out my passion, gifting and calling in a leadership role within our missional community. Being a pastor has never been an ambition of mine. Nor is it something that I thought I was coming to Glasgow to do. However, after further reflection, it is precisely what I'm here to do... or more accurately, to be.
A pastor isn't a pastor because of his/her title. And many without the title are, indeed, pastors. There are those that serve as preachers and teachers, or as healers, prophets or servants. And there are those that serve as shepherds. Shepherds exhort, disciple, equip, coach, mourn, lead, etc.
There is one thing that's been confirmed amidst the peeks and valleys of a tumultuous five years in ministry here: People Need Jesus. I need Him. You need Him. Everyone we know needs Him. Whether I have been exalted or maligned, excommunicated or embraced, celebrated or vilified, depressed or encouraged, mocked or respected, isolated or enfolded, accepted or rejected, abandoned or surrounded; the one thing that I can honestly say has kept my eyes forward, is the simple truth that I want everyone I know to know Jesus, or to know Him better.
My (new) title doesn't define me. On the contrary, I hope and pray to live up to what it means to shepherd the people God entrusts to me.

The CONNECT conference in Hungary is the first staff conference I've attended since joining CAI just over a year ago... and it was amazing! With speakers like Greg Boyd (Sr. pastor, Woodland Hills Church, St. Paul, MN) and Alan & Deb Hirsch, how could it not be?
There were so many highlights from the conference, but I think I'll touch on just a few... for now.
One of the best things about my experience was connecting with people doing what I'm doing, but in different parts of the world. In Scotland, it's easy to feel removed at times. We're on an island. We're in a relatively small, humble country. We have a growing, yet small church community. And we are breaking new ground in the areas of church-life and missional living. Sometimes, it feels like we're downright alone. But it was encouraging to get to know and hear the stories, trials, and victories that other teams are experiencing in Paris, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Brussels (to name a few). I was both ministered to, as well as having the opportunity to share some insight and experience with teams going through some typical team dysfunctions. Hey, the Lord redeems even life's toughest experiences.

Another cool (and somewhat surreal) experience happened during a commissioning ceremony held for all of us new to staff in the past year. A couple of years ago I was assigning a book by Alan Hirsch to a group of young leaders. On this night, I was standing next to Alan Hirsch and his lovely bride, Deb, as we were being commissioned. What a trip!

I can't express how at home I felt among the staff at CONNECT. Although there are people of all ages on staff, it has a very young and energetic vibe. It's a group full of explorers, adventurers and risk-takers.

The next few months are as busy as these past two... if not more so. I have a Coaching Leaders Workshop to attend in Geneva in late September, as well as Field Orientation to attend for Christian Associates in the Hague in early October. And these trips fall just prior to our family moving flats. Hectic times call for fervent prayer.

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