It is probably not a stretch to say that right now has been the most challenging...
After the ECO gathering ended, I drove over to the back bay (I called the back bay, a native friend of mine instructed me facetiously, “because there’s no such thing as canals or ditches in southern California.”) from St. Andrew’s and took a run along the trails. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and I felt simulatenously drained (from the long days and lots of time with my “extrovert” hat on) and energized by the week together with the ECO family.
Like all of us in this movement, I’m in a new context. For many, it’s the new reality of aligning with a denominational home which continually casts Christ-centered vision and high calls to real accountability. It’s a context shaped by new challenges like MAGs and narrative questions and more intentional commitment to big, hairy, audacious goals like church planting.
My new context involves serving as a church planter for a faithful non-denominational church in the greater Seattle area. Because ECO polity is flexible and nimble, the ministry I’m called to do at my new church is considered a validated ministry, allowing me to continue to connect and serve on behalf of the larger church through ECO. Without a doubt, it’s the craziest, most disorienting, most energizing thing I’ve ever done in ministry.
My previous call was to a wonderful Presbyterian church in Colorado, and in my role as an associate pastor, I learned a lot of the more “traditional” duties of being a pastor. Preaching and teaching. Guiding people through worship. Memorial services and weddings. Session. Presbytery. And I’m grateful for all the skills given to me through Jesus by that local church. The skills we all learned previously in ministry will continue to serve the kingdom well through ECO.
How do I feel called to strive right now? On my run, I decided to challenge myself a bit – to strive for something greater – by running up and down the hills along the canal. I mean, the back bay. I’d run up a hill, then jog back down, then back up again, trying to keep my heart rate up the whole time. I’d run up a hill and think about the difficult things in my new calling: leadership development, preaching, learning a new culture, helping our fledgling church grow and reach out.
As I ran down the hill, I’d give thanks for the hard things, and I’d turn my attention to the simpler, more affirming things: prayer, connecting with mission-minded leaders in my new community, seeking to be a Christ-like husband and father.
As I ran up and down the hills, I noticed a church just up the rise from where I was running, and peeking above the treeline near the church was a beautiful white cross. Down, thinking about affirming things; up, thinking about hard things; all under the purview of the wonderous cross.
I pray that we’ll all be able to follow the Spirit’s power to tackle the hills in front of us, remembering the One who looks out over all creation (including our ministry and our little contexts around the world) sees what we’re doing in ECO and does so with great joy.