Where is God in the midst of the list?
Do you remember as kid being taught – “Stop. Drop. Roll”? For those of you who say no it was a fire safety slogan, if your clothes caught fire you were to Stop, Drop to the ground and Roll to put the fire out. It is a clever and memorable slogan – that in the midst of a chaotic and dangerous situation the first thing to do is Stop!
My sense is many leaders in God’s church are not very good at stopping. We are used to moving, planning, thinking ahead, wondering where God’s is leading us. Too often there is a long list of activities which needs to get done – next Sunday’s bulletin, a newsletter article, hymns to choose, confirmation classes to plan, visits to make, fall dinners to schedule and plan and the list goes on and on and on… Where is God in the midst of the list? What in the list really moves the proclamation of the Gospel forward into people’s lives (into my own life)?
“…but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1Kings 19: 11b-13
In the midst of a hectic and chaotic time (Elijah was fearing for his life after all) it was in stopping that God’s still small voice was heard. So brothers and sisters is it time to stop? Drop a few things? Roll aside the idolatry of busy-ness to listen, wonder and pray where God is leading?
One thing I have learned through being involved in the process of Comprehensive Congregational Ministry Review is that it is the stopping to talk, listen, reflect and dream which is the greatest gift to a congregation and its leaders. For those of you who do not know, a Comprehensive Ministry Review is a process where a group of about 6 people spend a weekend in a congregation deeply listening to what is happening within the ministry. The congregation identifies a group of 6 to 10 of its members who work through this process. Together we talk about the congregation’s life including Worship, Christian Education, Stewardship, Finances, How Leaders are Developed, Vision and Purpose. Seldom do we as leaders just stop to talk about these things. Seldom do we reflect on what is going well and what might be areas of growth but this process gives the church an excuse to stop, to ponder and maybe even to set a new course toward God’s preferred future. There is life in these conversations. There is joy in dreaming Gospel-sized dreams and energy to move the dreams forward begins to emerge.
Fall is upon us. For many leaders in the church that means a pile of “things” to do. Maybe it is time to consider stopping – just for a bit. Maybe it will give you a change to catch your breath. Maybe even the Breath.