Being a minister is a double edged sword.
I went into this ministerial life with sky high hopes and the ability to dream.
I’m good at imagining wonder and magic, even when everything around me looks, smells and sounds unimaginably dreary.
I imagine all the people who’ve ever connected with the church in this place where we live together, coming together on the same day – then the body would start to feel complete.
Instead of lacking a limb here and there…
I imagine our faith ties (sometimes a very thin thread but you know there’s something binding you together) being stronger than any other ties, and our church family one where we couldn’t wait to be every Sunday.
Where someone’s secret fears were shared in prayer, and halved in power.
Where another’s joy was shared in worship and the joyful effect instantly multiplied.
Where hearts were stirred by the booming organ, in songs telling of real life today as well as resonating with the lives of our sisters and brothers who worshipped in these same seats 100 years ago.
Blessing and good news spilling out uncontrollably because who hides a bit of good news? Everyone wanting to be the first to tell theirs with anyone in the week that followed, as if this were as natural as falling off a log.
I can imagine all these things but the balancing act between being naive and being prophetic is so difficult. Imagine too much and you’ll be disappointed. Imagine too little and your faith will end up stunted.
And, when you’re busy imagining, just mind the gaps.
The gap between what you imagine and what actually happens.
The gap between missing the people that aren’t there when we gather, and engaging with the ones that are.
The gap between what someone said they’d do and what actually happened.
The gap between your enthusiasm the day before and your energy on the actual day.
That’s why being a minister is a double edged sword, and it must be the same for anyone in leadership.
If you don’t imagine, you can’t aim. If you don’t imagine, you can’t reach anywhere new.
But if you do imagine, you risk disappointment. You risk forgetting what is was you imagined in the face of what you actually see and hear, or don’t see and don’t hear.
The experience of being church is so finely balanced between something almost value-less (un-reflected upon, unenjoyable and pointless) and something supremely important (experiencing the power and presence of God spilling out upon your life for the whole of the following week) that it often feels like a tightrope.
I imagine it’s true whatever size church you lead. In small congregations we like to complain how much easier it would be with a larger group and multiple staff, but I remember when I was part of a church like that and all the staff did was complain that 90% of the people were ‘passengers’.
To be honest, you don’t get many passengers in small churches – there are so few people that just about everyone is needed simply to keep the building open. But then again, if 5 people aren’t there who are normally there on a Sunday morning, you can feel like you’ve utterly failed because the building feels so empty.
Really in this instance what you need is an automatic shut off device that closes all the pews except the four at the very front, and a neon sign that flashes 2 minutes before the service: “WARNING: LOW NUMBERS. PLEASE SIT CLOSE TOGETHER.”
So I continue to imagine. And sometimes I go home on a Sunday and wish it was all different, and sometimes I go home and shout my ‘yippee’ to God because it was wonderful exactly as it was.
I do imagine bigger numbers, more diversity, more of St Paul’s egalitarian body ‘vibe’ in the church, and obviously MORE ORGANISTS and MORE FLAPJACKS. But most of all, I imagine other people who are not ministers rushing up to me on a regular basis and saying ‘I imagine this, and this, and this for our church; how can we make it come true?’