This August, it will have been 10 years since I first walked down the aisle and “surrendered” to preach. In those ten years, I have learned a lot about ministry. I have learned what it takes to keep a large church in business. I have learned that sometimes congregations need to die graciously. I have learned that change is a fundamental component of growth and without one you don’t get the other. I have learned that people are more important than salaries (that one took a while). I have learned that pride does indeed precede a fall. I have learned that sometimes when a congregation needs to change to survive, they need a big of a hard ass as the pastor.
Every one of these lessons has cost me something. I have gained lifetime friends and said goodbye to some friends that I thought would be eternal. I have been made to look bad by my successors at certain churches. I have had my feelings hurt. And worst of all I have hurt people’s feelings. That is truly the worst part of it all.. those who I have hurt. That list is long and it will surely get longer.
But these lessons I have learned have not all come out of classes, lectures or formal teachings. Most of these lessons have come from around camp fires. I don’t mean literal camp fires, obviously. But these lessons I have learned, I have learned through community. It has been in relationship that my knowledge has been earned. I don’t have a big degree from a prestigious seminary. I have been in leadership of faith communities for nearly 10 years though.
I’ve said this to say that if the church has any future, it is around camp fires, not in lecture halls. If the missional church, especially, exists to thrive, there needs to be more camp fires and less lecture halls. That’s the future of the church. That’s where it’s at. It’s in the relationships, not in the hierarchical bureaucratic bullshit. It starts in the heart, not in the mind. I would argue that my generation is tired of the lecture halls and professionals. They want friends. They want mentors. They don’t mind if you wear the collar but they’re tired of the song and dance of the church. I’m tired of the song and dance. I’m tired of the church wearing a torn wedding dress because of menial epistemological differences. Unity is the future of the church and unity happens around camp fires, not in lecture halls.