Listening at Sea

Dear Gibson Sisters and Brothers,

RENEWAL EXPEDITION

Are we there yet? Not by a long shot, but we are surely underway and at sea. And we are listening while at sea as you’ll understand as you read on in this update. I’m leaning into that idea of listening at sea as I reflect and share with you where we are in our renewal expedition.

Are you sensing, too, more and more that the Spirit desires to take us into some uncharted territory that most of us may have not been to before? In my reading of Scripture, and listening to some other books and reading I am doing, I am impressed and convicted more and more that renewal will not be as simple as adopting a new worship style, having the right worship band, dressing up or dressing down, or any such concerns. Renewal will happen, like we consistently read in Acts and throughout the New Testament as the Church expanded and grew, when followers of Jesus…you and I live out a passion for the Gospel and take a personal interest and responsibility in the welfare of our neighbors. In other words, when we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then when that translates into loving my neighbor as myself, then genuine, loving, caring mutually-interdependent relationships will develop through which the Holy Spirit will do the amazing divine work of redemption and transformation. I heard someone say recently, people fall in love with God when they fall in love with his people. Do you think this is true? Is it possible? I’m seeing it more and more as the Spirit continues to lead us on our renewal expedition.

LISTEN, IMAGINE, DO

Listen, imagine, and do. These continue to be the 3 key guiding practices of the renewal expedition we have begun together with the Center for Church Renewal. We continue to be deeply invested into 4-directional listening that we pray the Holy Spirit will use and bless for our discerning God’s preferred and good future for Gibson Church. Let me update you on this listening. 

LISTENING FROM ABOVE

We are listening from above. We are listening to the Spirit of God as we read his word in weekly worship, but also daily in our congregational reading plans. Do you hear the Spirit speaking like I do each week through our Texts and messages to our renewal expedition? We will soon begin reading together through the Gospel of John. I will continue to ask you throughout what the Spirit is impressing upon you as you read and reflect prayerfully on your reading of Scripture. I will preach a summer sermon series on the ABC’s of hospitality. We are listening from above. 

LISTENING FROM WITHIN

We are listening from within. What is the Spirit of God speaking to us as we read God’s Word, and as we pray. We are praying individually and communally, and we are listening as we do. We pray and listen at every meeting, at every worship service, and at congregational prayer meetings. We are attentive to what the Spirit is saying to us on our renewal expedition. We are discerning the Spirit’s voice and direction. We are listening from within also as we read certain books to help guide us. Our Renewal Lead Team just finished reading The Gathered and Scattered Church by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. This book has helped us to think about what it means for us as a church congregation to gather, but then also to scatter and be the incarnation of Jesus and the Gospel with others everyday in our daily lives. And, soon, we will begin reading as a congregation the 10-Second Rule by Clare DeGraaf. I am looking forward to doing that with you and not only learning how we can fine-tune our spiritual antennae to the Holy Spirit, but also how to exercise strengthen our response muscle that will cause us to obey what the Spirit says. We are listening from within.

LISTENING FROM AMONG

We listen from among. What is our Gibson congregation saying about gifts and passions that the Spirit may use in God’s good and preferred future for us? We have completed the Congregational Assessment Survey. During the month of May we are focusing on S.W.O.T. throughout the week and at our worship services, collecting everyone’s contributions to identifying Gibson’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Sometime early this summer we will hold a light dinner together for the congregation followed by a Time to Remember where we will remember the Gibson story as it has unfolded over the decades. Please continue to participate in as many of these opportunities as you are able and as they are offered. We are listening from among. 

LISTENING FROM OUTSIDE

We are listening from outside. What is our community, neighborhood, and culture saying about needs and opportunities all around us? Our Renewal Lead Team is initiating a variety of conversations currently with a variety of Township and community leaders and neighbors where we’ll be asking and listening carefully to their answers to 3 basic questions. What is going well in our community? What are some of the current needs in our community? And how might Gibson Church partner in helping to meet some of these needs? We have already analyzed a comprehensive report called MissionInsite that gives us a treasure trove of information about our neighborhood of Laketown Township. The team brainstormed at our most recent meeting more than a dozen possible open doors, opportunities for missionally connecting and establishing meaningful relationships with our neighbors. These are just some of the ways we are listening from outside. 

At the end of the summer, the Renewal Lead Team will hold a retreat where we will gather and summarize and write some reports of all that we have heard in this listening. This will all be shared with the congregation then, too. 

EMERGING STATUS

Having received positive feedback to the information and discernment shared at our recent congregational meeting, we continue to discern and hear affirmation of the Spirit’s leading to seek that temporary emerging status change for this season of renewal at Gibson. We continue to pray for the Spirit to lead us to that best fit congregation with a strong missional culture, moxie, and desire to participate with us in getting on board with where the Spirit is already at work in us and in Laketown Township. As that process continues, please continue to pray for the Spirit to reveal that path before us. I’ll share more of that process with you as the Spirit leads.

ALL HANDS ON DECK

I tell the Renewal Lead Team often how grateful I am for each of them. They are a spiritually-sensitive, missionally-motivated group, and I couldn’t lead this expedition without them. But, I’ll say this again to all of you. This renewal expedition we are on requires all hands to be on deck. No pleasure cruises for any of us. We are all engaged. We all have a job to do. We all have a part to play, gifts to offer on this journey and for this expedition to be fruitful. 

What can you do?

  • Pray. Please continue to pray for our personal and communal renewal at Gibson. Pray for our Renewal Lead Team. Please pray for me as your Pastor. Pray for our neighborhood, for Laketown Township. Pray for open doors with our neighbors to build strong relational ties, and for the Gospel to be proclaimed clearly and effectively in our actions and in our words. Pray for humility and courage to follow the Spirit in the next steps we are being called to take. 
  • Participate. Please respond when I ask for input from you as we listen together. What is God speaking to your spirit by his Spirit as you read Scripture? Please join us for our congregational prayer meetings. Please join us for other in person opportunities to tell stories, give thanks, and listen to each other and the Spirit. 

I remain so honored and grateful to be with you on this renewal expedition, Sisters and Brothers. God has a good and preferred Gospel-centered future for us, and I am eager and expectant to learn with you by the Spirit what that will be, to imagine it, and then to do it together. For now, let’s continue to listen well. The best is yet to come.

Shalom,

Pastor Rod