Each week I send a newsletter to our church’s members and friends, and I end each week with a different verse from Scripture. This week’s verse is from Psalm 40:3, which declares: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (Fear, here, is used in the Biblical sense of an overpowering sense of awe and wonder at the direct experience of the presence of God!)
I love the metaphor this presents, and feel it encapsulates what we are about at Song of Life. We seek to hear and share the “new song” that God is seeking to give us, to lift through our communal worship and life together a “life song” that praises God in and for all things. Our goal behind everything we do at Song of Life, is to encourage you – as a community and as individuals – to pursue the new song God is giving, to “sing” with all your being in such a way that you and your life give witness to God!
As I think about following God’s leading to “sing a new song,” I’m encouraged by our congregation’s willingness to consider bold and new opportunities for ministry. Our potential move into a building is just one of these ministries we’re considering at this time, we’re also in conversation and prayer about, and hoping to launch, new ministries to expand our effort to encourage “people living in faith everyday”:
- Intentional, expanded ministry with and for preschool children of the church and community, like our recent “Story Time with the Pastors”
- Ministry with and for parents, such as a MOPS group and regular parenting seminars
- Expanded youth and children’s ministries
A recent national survey shares with us that “vital” congregations have four things in common: (1) both traditional and contemporary worship* options, (2) children’s, youth, and small group ministries; (3) strong lay leadership; (4) inspirational and longer-tenured pastoral leaders.** We’re taking seriously our calling to provide opportunities to the people of Queen Creek and the East Valley to explore what it means to “live in faith everyday,” and will seek to embark on bold new ventures that allow us to do so.
Which also leads me to remember a song a friend wrote years ago, “The Seven Last Words of the Church.” He shared, in his own sardonic and irreverent way, his experience in more established churches reluctant to do or try anything new. I don’t have the lyrics before me, but more than a decade later I can recall that these last words of the church will be, “we’ve never done it that way before.”
I am more and more convinced that effective leadership in the contemporary, vital church of Jesus Christ – whether it be the “official” leadership of those ordained and credentialed, or the more imperative but often-unsung leadership of church members such as you reading this – will be characterized by willingness to follow Jesus Christ into bold, new directions. I’m reminded of a small portion of the story of Jesus and the disciples walking to Emmaus (from Luke 24:28-29):
As they came near the village to which they were going (Emmaus), he (Jesus) walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us…”
I believe that when we actually, authentically encounter the presence and reality of Jesus during our spiritual journey, it is natural for us to want Jesus to stay with us where we met him. We want to linger in the experience, like the disciples on the mountain of transfiguration (Luke 9).
But as Jesus’ disciples in the world – as those called and committed to follow – the invitation is not ours to give, but his. And Jesus’ invitation to the disciples is not to stay, but to “go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18). The world moves on, and the means to reach those in the world must, by extension, regularly change.
I’m feeling called to new directions, and that is a challenging calling. I’d much prefer, personally, to be able to find and “stick with” a particular model or mode of ministry. But I’m convinced that to be effective – not only as your pastor, but as the spiritual leader of a community that seeks to know and be Christ in the world today – I must be willing to venture into new territory, to take new risks, to listen for and sing the “new song” God is seeking to give me and us.
I’d love to hear your comments/responses, and will share two footnotes in the comments, as well.