Fifteen men gifted with an unlimited passion for Christ and His body.
I met with four of them as a staff member for the first time this morning at 7:00 a.m. for their weekly "visioning" meeting with the ministry and office staff. In spite of the fact that I early on made a comment that I didn't mean to be disparaging - that trying to capture a vision is a lot like trying to grab fog - they were welcoming and affirming.
The previous meetings, I gathered, had established some solid, foundational principles to guide further discussion. Before long, though, the conversation took a different turn altogether ... about a long-time problem we have had in our church in helping people feel welcomed and at home there, especially among the singles.
I've long felt that the singles group is the incubator of our church; the place from whence its current leaders have arisen since the time I was single and started attending at my home church 20+ years ago.
We spoke freely of the challenges, the attempts both failed and successful, to bridge the gap between the "insiders" and the "outsiders" and concluded that the matter was too urgent and too deep to remain a simple matter of visioning.
What impressed me most about the elders - and staff - I met with this morning is that they were not always willing to agree, but they were always willing to listen and seek a consensus.
No one pulled rank. No one was defensive. No one was impatient or unkind or insisted on his own way ... well, you know where I'm going with this.
And we all had to agree that, as pretty much the ultimate "insiders," we needed to listen to the problem and possible solutions as articulated by the folks who feel like they're "outsiders."
The four men I met with this morning may not be typical of the remaining eleven, but I believe they all share the same Spirit, the same passion, the same vision - even if articulated in fifteen different ways.
My prayer of examen this evening can't be articulated in pretty words and compliments. The closest I can come is:
Thank you, God, for working in different ways through each of these different shepherds, and testifying to the unity You create through Your common Spirit in the bond of peace through them.