Technically, it’s awkward to say, as I often do, that the church is just as much the church when it’s scattered and sent as when it’s gathered together. It’s awkward because “church” is ecclesia, a word which means “assembly”. It’s freighted with gathered-ness.
And yet there’s something very exciting about moments when we spot the scattered church “being the church” beyond the church, beyond the gathering.
I get to experience this quite often with my church. As pastor and church planter, I feel the best sort of pride in my people. I’ve assembled them. I’ve churched them. But then out they go, into the world, doing their thing. Doing in many cases the very things they were doing quite well before I came along and churched them. I can never take any credit for what they’re doing, or the special quality with which they do what they’re doing. But I still feel … proud.
Whence perfect pastoral pride?
I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly what this is that I’m feeling, and why it feels so appropriate. Part of it comes from the mere fact that I’ve got these people. They’re coming to my church. Cool!
Beyond this, I think my pride comes from knowing that I get the privilege of nourishing their souls for the work they’re called to. And I get the joy of “churching” them alongside others who are in many cases much better at nourishing their souls than I am—or at least who can bring the nourishment to a place where it is converted into energy for their vocations.
The other sort of ‘un-churched’
As church planters, we must gather, we must church. But precisely because we church, we must un-church. And we can have the pleasure of a certain species of pride when we see our un-churched church doing its thing, or their things, at a great distance from the church branding, budget, and board. It’s not the pride of control or appropriation. It’s the pride of having done your part, and knowing that others, having been nourished by the part you’ve played, are now playing their part and nourishing others.
While we’re on the topic, why don’t you come to Rock Hill, SC later this month for the 3rd annual Friday Arts Project forum? This year, they’re exploring ‘truth’. You won’t be disappointed. And you’ll get to experience one of my greatest sources of perfect pastoral pride.
Sandra McCracken, Maurice Manning, Aaron Belz, delicious food, and much more.
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