Category Archives: Ecclesiology

An Open Letter to Congregations Welcoming New Pastors

My own thoughts (some hopefully beneficial, some potentially harmful) on just what to do about a new pastor arriving less than a week from today prompted me to draft an open letter to my church. It addresses the “fix-it” list mentality that we can get caught up in whenever new leadership comes into an organization…

January is here! No doubt, this is the month where God’s blessing on us manifests itself in the form of a gifted and passionate shepherd to serve as Pastor and Head of Staff. Thanks be to God! I can’t help but think that our gracious and providing God has a sense of humor. How appropriate that Pastor Bill arrives in January… that he arrives in a month saturated with new beginnings and new chapters, with renewed hope and renewed vitality. Personally and professionally, I’m very thankful for God’s blessing on us. I’m excited to work with a fellow climber, a fellow bibliophile, and a fellow questioning pilgrim, to name a few of Bill’s qualities.

The arrival of a new pastor after a long interim period is great news, but it’s also an occasion for extra diligence. Over the past few months, each of us has probably said that some problem or another will just get better when the new pastor comes. I know I have. But the more I think about it, the more I’m wary of that attitude. Indeed, the presence of a pastor inherently clears up certain potential conflicts. For example, although we could not have survived this period without the leadership of dedicated laypersons who stepped up to the plate, I eagerly anticipate having just one supervisor. Just one person to report to. Where hierarchy exists, it exists most efficiently in simple form. So, Pastor Bill’s arrival itself is somewhat of an automatic solution to certain organizational challenges.

But we know we’re not a perfect congregation. No congregation is perfect. There are still ways for us to streamline the way we carry the gospel out into Durango. There are still ways for us to more enthusiastically fold newcomers into our midst. There are still ways for us to harness 21st-century technology for the purposes of building God’s Kingdom this year. There are still ways for us to become a tighter family of many generations working together.

Join me in rejoicing that our Pastor has arrived, but also let us remain diligent, both as individuals and as a corporate body. Before I ask Bill to make a drastic change that I may personally want to see, may I give him the time he needs to observe us and strategize about how to best lead us. May I avoid the temptation to hand him a “fix-it” list. May I be eager to discern how my unique gifts might best combine with those brought by Bill. Join me in enthusiastically welcoming Pastor Bill in this way!

Let us take to heart how Paul ends his admonition to the believers in Rome: “And now to him who is able to establish us by the gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… so that all nations might believe and obey him, to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen!”

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Snow

Tonight went to a Christmas party at a house in a neighborhood in the hills west of Durango. Normally the drive takes about 15 minutes. Coming back down into town took maybe 30, 4WD and low gear all the way. It was so cool to see that much snow on the road! I’ve been complaining about how warm it’s been recently, and how little precipitation we’ve been getting. Last weekend we got a pretty good storm and Purgatory opened with a good amount of frontside trails available. Today the backside opened during a storm. So maybe all my complaining got us somewhere… or not. It’s just nice to finally have snow around. Hopefully the temperatures will stay down so we can keep it.

After we got home I took Rusty out to pee, since we had been gone about two-and-a-half hours. Now normally this involves a flashlight for any time later than 7:00. This was 8:30, and even though Durango doesn’t have a lot of glaring lights, what little there is was reflecting all over the snow and it was like a bright dusk outside. A wierd phenomenon to try to put into words. Just much brighter outside than one would expect it to be when the sun has gone all the way down.

I know I haven’t posted in a while, and this is a good excuse for me to write some, to get back into it. There’s been interesting stuff going on at work, but I’m carefully examining how much work stuff I talk about now that staff blogs are on their way to becoming a disputed topic. And that may have been saying too much, hahaha.

Well, hopefully February will bring plenty of blog fodder. Pending official acceptance, I’ll be taking an online class through University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (UDTS). “Theology of Mission and Evangelism.” Seeking to rethink these two major components of ecclesiology in the context of our ever-changing culture.

Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving vacation in Monterey has been great. Although this town is like Durango in the transient nature of its young inhabitants, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in how many people from the old days I’ve run into while here. A couple brief conversations with my closest friend Chris, and a longer hangout on the schedule for tomorrow. Great times with my brother-in-law Pat, wondering what it would be like to be Indiana Jones and halfheartedly plotting to drop off “the grid”. A pipe-smoking session with Uncle George, learning about his seminary days and hearing his stories of traveling to Brazil and moving around among parishes.

Went to church a couple times today. First, we caught a service at Shoreline, where I used to work. It’s definitely changed. They’ve built an impressive facility in an old warehouse. I’m really excited for Pastor Howie getting to see his dreams come to fruition. He started from scratch over a decade ago, and now the church has a thriving body of believers. What I admire most about Shoreline is its dedicated core of volunteers that keep at least some portion of virtually every component of the church running smoothly. They’ve got to be sold on the vision Howie’s casted. Major kudos there. Like I said before though, a lot has changed since I was there, as things do. The new facility, while impressive, didn’t quite resonate with me. The sanctuary is very spacious, and has who-knows-how-many thousands of dollars of technology, but it didn’t feel like a church. There were no Christian symbols anywhere. Really, this isn’t a rant… I’m a firm believer that you can’t make everyone happy. I just need my worship space to have some worship aids that push me towards an encounter with God. Anyway, the service was so-so for me, but I’m sure it’s great for the people it reaches. No faith community has a monopoly on how to reach and serve everyone.

This evening Anina and I went to a new house-church, Stone Harbor. It was planted by a respected colleague named Johnny Potter, and another humble Christ-follower named Tom Green. Johnny has this amazing quiet wisdom that makes him such a natural shepherd. Without any discussion, Anina and I both knew he was the one we each wanted to perform our weding (and he did). Johnny pastored at Shoreline almost from day one, but has felt called to start Stone Harbor very recently. The gathering is about 60 people that meet in the Potter home. Really cozy in there, hahaha. It was so organic and no-frills. Quite a contrast to how I felt while I experienced a Shoreline service. Fairly typical layout, with worship songs up front, followed by a brief and easy-to-take-notes-on message, then closed of with a time of singing and praying. After things ended, I was so amazed to see clusters of people spontaneously forming and praying for each other. The norm was for people to socialize for a few minutes, almost inevitably followed by a short but sincere couple minutes of praying for each other. But it was so low-pressure. Like, you know how sometimes people can be praying, and you feel odd if you’re not doing it too? Yeah, not like that at all. It was just what these believers wanted to do with each other. No pressure. Wow.

Originally this post was titled, “The Way It Should Be”. But I realized that I couldn’t use that if I really believe that nobody has the market cornered on ecclesiology. But I’ll tell you what… if I lived in Monterey, I would make my home at Stone Harbor. It was so refreshing.

A couple more days of vacation, and then back to work. More details to come…