Leading into Uncharted Territory

About a year and a half ago, Immanuel hosted Todd Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains.  Little did we know then that what we were doing would prepare us for today.  We provided the building, but we should give due credit that it was Lesli VanMilligen of Faith Formation Ministries and Classis Toronto that set up the meeting.   

What I want to share with you is a description of how we have been leading.  I will list some principles and show how they have come into play.  Hopefully, this gives you a glimpse behind the scenes – in case you were wondering, 

  1. Be decisive.  Leading in a time like this requires some quick decisions.  We were not able to call a meeting and gather before deciding to cease building-based ministry.  Now, at least physically, we are not allowed to meet at all.  You will be glad to know that over a decade ago when we rewrote our bylaws there was a clause added allowing for attending a meeting by electronic means.  Phew. 
  2. Know what you don’t know.  It seems almost contradictory to #1.  These first two work together.  Be decisive but make short term decisions.  The building is closed until further notice.  We are worshipping the way we are until we adapt it again.  Our community is able to carry on well right now.  We never know the future, but right now we actually know experientially how little we know about even our immediate future.  We make a quick clear decision for today because we need to act now, but we don’t pretend there won’t be a new decision tomorrow. 
  3. Ask for help.  Those under 25 are called “digital natives”.  They grew up in a world with the internet.  Pastor Derek is running the camera and sound for our Sunday presentations, not me.  The high school students in my small groups are guiding me on how to post material for our conversations on Instagram…okay, they are telling me everything about Instagram.  Leading does not require knowing everything yourself.  Leading often includes a healthy dose of following – following those who know the land in which you travel. 
  4. Rework your assumptions.  Would it be fair to say that most of us long considered the church to be that place we go to on Sunday morning?  You may have heard me, once or twice, push back on that idea.  Even though I have said it, I also needed the force of the ban on gathering to actually begin to live into what it really means to be the church wherever you are.  Again, we are just beginning this exploration, and much is yet to be learned, but there are many voices noting that when we return to public gatherings, we will not be the same.  And, especially now, we know that we don’t know exactly what that will look like. 
  5. Keep your focus.  With all that is changing and moving and shifting under our feet, we still maintain that our task is to help people connect with Jesus in a way that transforms the way they live.  We connect online and by phone so that we can experience the body of Christ.  We send out study guides and worship videos so that we can sense that together we continue the conversation of what it means to see Jesus and follow him at this time.    
  6. Err on the side of over-communicating. Let’s admit it, just because we read something doesn’t guarantee that we know it.  To help people into a changed reality requires a bit of repetition.  So if we are sending you too many things, at least know that we are doing it on purpose.  We want to make sure people feel connected, informed and that we are trying hard to be church together.  We are trying to keep a basic pattern and flow to each week, but since this pattern is still new that doesn’t help yet.  Please be patient.  Please stay informed.  Please learn what you need to read in order to participate in a way that helps you grow. 

We are in Holy Week, walking towards Good Friday and Easter.  As you read the Gospel narrative this week pay attention to how many times the disciples are lost and confused, if not outright clueless.  This year we are perfectly poised to join them.  We don’t know what is coming.  But we do know how the story ends.  It ends in resurrection, in new life, in the opportunity for a fresh beginning.  Let us follow Jesus boldly this week into what is dark and unknown, sharing the confidence that he will raise us with him up and out and into the light on the other side. 

~Pastor Erick Schuringa