A final thought before I take this project beyond the pages of my blog.
In his breakdown of the various typical stages of a pastoral tenure, Thom Rainer describes Years 4 and 5: Crossroads, Part 1 as follows:
“This period is one of the most critical in the relationship. If the conflict was severe, the pastor will likely leave or be forced out. Indeed, these years, four and five, are the most common years when a pastor leaves a church. On the other hand, if the pastor and the church manage the relationship well, they can often look forward to some of the best years ahead.” Autopsy of a Deceased Church; page 59 in the 2014 edition.
Of course the dynamics of the Church of England tend to lead to more protracted, less overt crunch points, but the theory still broadly holds – or so some of those ‘in the know’ tell us.
So what happens next for us?
Firstly, at least for now – and who knows how long ‘now’ is going to last – the plan is for the NTV and I to simply plod on. To plod on in God’s strength and by his grace faithfully and prayerfully doing what we can to make disciples right here where he has placed us. Preaching and teaching well, living holy lives and loving until it hurts.
Secondly, we are going to focus on the clear and loving communication of our diagnosis of the state of the churches’ spiritual health as a vital first step on which to (God willing) build a shared disciple-making strategy.
Thirdly we are going to see what the reaction is.
If there is either a refusal to undergo a health check or a failure to agree on what the health check reveals then we would be unwise not to seriously consider whether this is a place where we can fruitfully serve Christ’s glorious cause.
BUT, if a group of gospel partners emerges from the process with a united diagnosis of the key problems, and a united vision for the road to health and strength – then we can start to move forward into the years of fruit and harvest that Rainer describes next.
Questions of who holds the keys and how we can return them to the hook of Jesus’ authority can then be asked. Glass cabinets can be opened up and church life laid out for perusal. The pea-rl of the gospel can take centre stage once more. Who knows we may even face Rainer’s next stage, beyond fruit and harvest – Crossroads, Part 2 – but let’s not worry about that just yet!
So I’ll keep you posted!