Dear Gibson Sisters and Brothers,
Are we on a pleasure cruise, or a sailing expedition? What do you think? Which is a more accurate picture for Gibson Church, or for any church at any time?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately inspired by the Luke stories I’ve been reading, meditating upon, and preaching from. I’ve also read the book Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger. Bollsinger uses the historic journey of Lewis and Clark and their company of explorers from which to draw some insightful metaphors and pictures for Christian leadership in uncharted territory. Hence, I’ve been thinking about expeditions and cruises.
What does a pleasure cruise bring to mind? I admit that I’ve never been on a cruise, but I hear from friends and family that they are quite something. There are opportunities for exploring and touring some ports of call and towns along the way where one can sightsee, take in some shopping, enjoy beautiful beaches, and sample the local cuisine. Onboard the ship there is no end to options for entertainment, like musical shows, movies, pools, dancing, and an endless variety and amount of food and venues, and just lounging. Sounds like a pretty nice experience that caters almost exclusively on the comfort and favorable experience of each passenger.
Cruises sound like a lot of fun, and who knows? Maybe I’ll experience one one day. But, when I think about the Church, I’m not sure this is the best metaphor for us. A cruise doesn’t require a ton from its passengers, other than to pay the bill when all is said and done. It’s all about my experience. How am I doing? How may others serve me? I shouldn’t have to lift a finger. After all, I’ve paid for this experience. It’s a pleasure cruise! For my pleasure!
I wonder. Are there some churches that operate like that, where church is something that’s done for you and to you for your pleasure? Worship is prepared for you. Highly skilled musicians provide the worship music for you. Children’s ministry is programmed for you. Fellowship meals are prepared for you. Bible studies and small groups are organized for you. LIttle is expected or required from you regarding the mission of the church. Are you being fed? Are you satisfied? Are you happy? Great! Don’t forget to support the ministry with your tithes and offerings! There’s something missing with the cruise metaphor for the Church, isn’t there?
By contrast, think of a sailing expedition. (If Jesus were using the metaphor, he might choose to use instead a fishing expedition.) An expedition has a whole different feel and connotation to it than a cruise. An expedition has a clear and defined mission. There is no question about what they are doing and why. On an expedition, you expect to work. On an expedition, you have a specific role to play using a unique talent, experience, or expertise that you bring to the team. On an expedition, teamwork is essential. On an expedition, a good leader equips, encourages, and helps guide, but always relies upon the gifts and the efforts of everyone else on the expedition. An expedition is an all-hands-on-deck experience. No one is lounging in the pool. An expedition implies adventure and a certain amount of unknown. Perhaps there is even risk involved, small ones and sometimes big ones. Yes, expeditions, truth be told, sometimes experience loss…of equipment, of security, even life. Expeditions can be costly and involve discomfort and danger. Flexibility, adaptability, and innovation are necessary traits for those on an expedition. Expedition folk are unafraid to try new things, and even to fail, but learning from every experience. Exploration is also part of an expedition. Expeditions often go where no one has gone before. Uncharted territory. An expedition sails because there is one with authority and resources who resources, commissions, and sends them out on a mission.
You see it, right, how the Church is more like an expedition than a pleasure cruise? Friends, Gibson Church is on a sailing expedition even as we are being renewed. We are finding our mission and what it means to be commissioned and sent out, resourced by God into the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to redeem and restore in the power of the Holy Spirit, and for the sake of his Kingdom, and for his glory. I’m so glad to be on this expedition with you. How else do you see Gibson Church functioning more like a sailing expedition than a pleasure cruise?
I want to give you some updates again on where we are in our Church Renewal Lab journey since I last wrote to you in December. As I listed out last time, the Holy Spirit has already been doing significant work in us and continues to do so.
Let me introduce you to the Gibson Renewal Lead Team that will lead our discernment process and help carry out some of the events and activities we’ll be engaging over the next year, or so.
- Jennifer Becksvoort
- Randall Becksvoort
- Karen Dokter
- Barb Drnek
- Tom Drnek
- John Knoll
- Sue Knoll
- Sierra Page
- Jami Viening
I’m so grateful for each one and their willingness to be all-hands-on-deck in our expedition of renewal and discovering God’s unique mission for Gibson Church today. Our Council’s hands are on deck, too. We’ll need your hands to join us on deck, not the least of which is through your fervent prayers, as well as participation in some future activities and events as you are able.
We had our 2nd quarterly round of Church Renewal Lab with our cohort churches on January 14-16 using Zoom. I met with the other pastors and the CRL staff all day Thursday and Friday, and then we all met together as Pastors and Lead Teams from all of our cohort churches on Saturday morning. These were extremely full days, but so good for all of us. We are instructed, resourced, coached, encouraged, and inspired to continue in the renewal expedition. I am so grateful for the Center for Church Renewal and their investment into all of us for discerning God’s good and preferred future for each of our congregations.
What’s coming up this quarter in our renewal expedition? I have another renewal sermon series entitled “Abiding” coming up soon based on John 15. I have another daily Scripture reading plan for you that we will be launching again soon, this time in Ephesians and Colossians. The lead team is also beginning to read and discuss a book together, The Gathered and Scattered Church by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay.
There is more going on behind the scenes always, but our big job for the next 3-6 months is to listen carefully in four directions: from above, among, outside, and within. There are a number of activities and strategies the team and I will be using to ultimately develop a comprehensive listening report where we will distill and focus and discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in the process. You’ll hear more about the tools and strategies we’ll employ in the coming weeks and months.
Sisters and brothers, I’ll say it again. All hands on deck! You are so important to Gibson Church and to God’s good future he has in store for us. But, it will take a clarity and commitment to mission that we will live both together and individually. You see, the Spirit is working renewal at Gibson by working renewal in each one of us, in you! So, please pursue, filled with the Spirit, be devoted to the 4 actions steps we have identified in Acts 2:42-47. Continue to pray. Join in our reading together of Ephesians and Colossians. Listen for the Spirit in all of it. Tell stories of what you have seen the Spirit doing. Keep looking for opportunities to take additional action steps we identified in our DEVOTED series. In other words, no one-and-done. Keep going! Keep pursuing relentlessly! Let’s keep in step with the Spirit as the Spirit leads our renewal expedition!