Development is hard. For instance: The crew and I, led by the devoted foreman Ben Blei, are in the last throes of finishing the project down the street at 1226 S. Broad. All the details we missed are becoming evident. All the last-minute demands to meet the deadlines are irritating us. Relationships that need to work, but don’t work that well, are becoming obvious. Our limitations are also becoming obvious. There are a lot of problems associated with developing an old abandoned building. There are good reasons people don’t take on big projects like that.
As I was writing that line, someone emailed and told me they were as good as an abandoned building and God started developing them! But they had some good reasons why they did not want to get with that program: details, demands, relationship issues, limitations, etc, etc. It is exciting whenever I hear about someone who is in the throes of developing faith! Because the main development project people resist taking on is themselves.
That kinds of sums up the focus of my new job. I’m now the “development pastor.” It is a big idea for a job description, in that I am going to get practical about how we get from here to there as the whole church, Circle of Hope. But it is also a very small idea, in that I am going to have more time to be devoted to individuals, especially the leaders, as they move into their future in Christ.
I am excited. I even renamed this blog to make that clear!
I need to develop and I want to help others develop
That’s probably the same as you – we’re on the same team after all. I just get to lead in it. We all need to develop — we’re doing it one way of another. I want to follow Christ into my fullness.
To develop in Christ means one has some kind of experiential knowledge of spiritual things that moves them to action — not just book knowledge, or secondhand knowledge or even Circle of Hope knowledge. You know God and that relationship is developing. I first learned this when I finally read the Bible and saw in Romans 8 that people who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. In all our talk about our “second act” we have been devoted to risking that the people of our church will be led by the Spirit: we’re trusting Christ to be at work in all of us; we’re trusting each other to keep developing as people in Christ and to resist settling into some placeholder life.
The last time I spoke in a Sunday meeting I offered three basic things we all need to hold on to if we are going to keep developing as individuals in Christ and keep developing as the Lord’s church. Let me briefly list them again.
- Take incarnation seriously
The finite manifests the infinite, the physical is the doorway to the spiritual — like Jesus the incarnate Son of God is our way to eternity. This is the way to that. There are not sacred and profane places or moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places and moments. Christ in YOU is the hope of glory. Christ in US makes us the incarnation of the Lord in the here and now. To develop, take that honor seriously. You and we are important, no matter what voice inside or big power from outside tells us.
- Practice remaining in Love
Only love “in here” can enjoy love “out there.” Fear, constriction and resentment make us blind and need to be overcome. People cooperating with their development let their inner darkness and fear rest in Christ. God’s gift of love in Jesus makes that possible. There is no law or moral code that makes you better than remaining in Love. Stay there no matter how many times someone wants you to prove the validity of what you know in your heart by the data, or they try to make you love the empty container of the law without the content of the Creator. “Remain in my love,” the Lord says – then you will develop.
- Stay close to the cracks in everything
Jesus says, “The last will be first and the first last.” Paul says, “When I am weak I am strong.” It feels upside down. But when we stay close to this seemingly irrational crack in normality, we begin to see Jesus — out there on the edge of what looks like an abyss to us. He is always about to fall over the cliff into what people think is nuts or impossible. We need to stay close to that. This is the hardest for me and most of us because it means we need to stay close to our own suffering. We need to be one of “the poor in spirit” who are blessed. We need to notice our own cracks and not cosmetically alter them. Living with Jesus on the edge, where things are cracked and paying attention to our own cracks in health and relationships is the mother of spiritual development.
We need to develop as a church in mission and I want to help
Our ambitious map for 2015 is full of what’s next. It is so packed, we will probably need to extend it beyond a year! It is a very practical doc but very focused on heaven. We are redesigning ourselves to match what God is telling us and changing to meet people where they are at now. I hope you share my estimation of us: we have what the world needs; we are the next church finding its way in a changing world. As believers with a beachhead in the megalopolis, we are incredibly well-positioned to be used by God — and we are being used.
I have already been at work helping us to refine who we are so we can move into who we are called to be now. We planted new admin at the Hub. We redeployed our pastors to “get out there” and not be a four-headed unit with too much responsibility. We deepened our reformed Leadership Team and turned the Imaginarium into a rolling Council meeting. We are retooling how we use our two corporations: Circle of Hope Inc and Circle Venture to let us relate to the powers in useful ways. We installed Rachel as a new pastor and released me to think bigger and act smaller. We are getting together the masterminds (and we have them) to imagine how we can be large and personal, prophetic and empathetic, active and contemplative, dispersed and focused, attentive and inclusive, communitarian and missional.
All my experience leads me to this moment of development, I think. While it is hard for me to change from being the day-to-day pastor of a congregation, I am excited for this new moment of opportunity. I have some good years of service ahead of me! Even more exciting, I think, is to be a part of Circle of Hope, now — when devoted, reconciling, ambitious brothers and sisters in Christ are moving into their second act and trusting God to do something even greater.