This past Saturday, your six elected church council members, along with your two pastors, spent the better part of a day dreaming about the future of Good Shepherd. We began the day by exploring and affirming the variety of personality traits and skill sets that brought us into leadership positions. We studied and discussed the marks of effective council leadership. We reflected on the mission and values of GSLC to better understand our collective DNA. And finally, we created a strategic list of 2019 goals that might nudge us toward a better fulfillment of our mission.
This week's Gospel lesson is that famous - perhaps infamous? - missive from Jesus to "love your enemies." That's pretty radical stuff. I've always thought of this lesson in a very personal sense. Who are my enemies? How and why are they hindering me? How can I better love them?
In light of last weekend's council retreat, I'm now pondering a different angle: What are the enemies of our collective congregation? How are these enemies keeping us from best living out our mission? Are these enemies still worth loving?
The thing is, enemies are a little trickier to identify in an institution than they might be in your interpersonal dealings. In fact, enemies might be the other side of a two-sided coin. Here are a couple I can think of:
Tradition. We're Lutherans! We love our traditions. As Christians, traditions help us stay connected to our ancient forebears. They give meaning to our ritualistic practices. We also have traditions that are particular to our denomination and our congregation. These help reflect who we are and what we believe. And yet, the hairs on the back of your neck should stand up when someone says, "But we've always done it that way!" A compulsive need to keep things the way they are can be the enemy of evolving ministry needs.
Comfort. Many of you can remember a time when Good Shepherd was a fledgling outpost without a physical home. Decades have passed. We now have a beautiful building, a top-notch staff, and a full array of excellent programs. I'm very comfortable being a part of this community. And yet, comfort can stir the soul into spiritual sleepiness. A desire to protect the good things we've worked hard to establish can be the enemy of accepting God's call to lean into new and uncomfortable opportunities.
There are others, of course. What enemies, both overt and hidden, have you observed that could keep us from "growing a Christ-centered community through life-changing service?"
At our council retreat, we came up with several 2019 goals.
We want to enhance our worship experience by working with John Jahr to address the evolving music and sound needs of our congregation.
We want to be more intentional about identifying leaders in our congregation by establishing a Nominating Ministry Team.
We want to continue exploring plans for the physical expansion of our narthex so that we can provide a more welcoming and functional gathering space for our community.
Well, none of that is terribly uncomfortable, right?
Try this: the NC Synod has identified GSLC as a potential candidate to become an "anchor church." This would involve us creating a second physical site for our congregation, most likely in the growing areas of the triangle north or east of here. Through financial grants and significant programmatic support from the Synod, we would add another pastor, who would first seek to understand our DNA and then gradually focus more on the details of this second site. Of course, many months of communication, research, and self-reflection would be required before accepting this challenge.
Does this make you squirm a bit? Good! Based on what I've read in the Gospels, "squirming" is the appropriate reaction to the movement of the Spirit. I don't believe in change for change's sake. I don't believe that every new idea is a good one. But let's promise each other in 2019 that we will courageously open our eyes, ears, and hearts to the new, exciting, and uncomfortable plans that God has for us. I look forward to walking - and dreaming - with you.
Nelson Nunalee, GSLC Council President
P.S. Care to chat with a council person? We'd love to!
Nelson Nunalee, President
Andrew Ballard, Vice President
Kate Greengrove, Secretary