Doing a New Thing

Doing a New Thing

Over the weekend, Facebook posts of many pastors included sharing an article a Presbyterian pastor wrote about his decision to leave his church and the parish ministry altogether. I read the article, watched this pastor’s last sermon, and read the multitude of responses in the comments section of the threads to these posts. Yet, I didn’t want to add to the comments, which seemed to be in two camps of thought. The comments appeared to either confirm the pastor’s experience or shame the pastor for sharing his frustrations and pain.

The discussion itself is not new. In the last couple of years, there has been an ongoing conversation about the painful realities of the church being a shrinking organization whose leaders (both pastoral and lay) struggle under the crushing demands of an anxious system. The truth is we are all afraid.

We are afraid that people have not returned to the pews, activities, or leadership in the ways we hope they would. We are afraid that our financial resources are dwindling.  We are afraid that we do not have enough, that we are not enough, that there is not enough.

I have been there. And I can find myself there at any given moment when I allow the swimming thoughts of fear, doubt, uncertainty, and discouragement to flood my mind. The truth is the ministry I love in this Conference looks and feels different than it did even a couple of years ago.

In the dark nights of my soul, I worry about the sustainability of our Conference as I see the OCWM (our main revenue stream) dollars from our churches shrinking. In return, the resources to carry out the ministry of the Conference are shrinking, with fewer people to do more work.

I worry about the sustainability of our DuBois Center as while I do see donations coming in for the buildings and the property, I do not see gifts given to invest in the operating costs or the people needed to carry out the mission.

I have lost more sleep worrying over these things than I care to share. But then I remember an essential part of the equation in my worrying and fretting that I have not factored in. I have not factored in what I cannot see or know.

I cannot see what God has in mind for us. I cannot understand how the Spirit of God is moving in the background to do a new thing. I cannot imagine or comprehend what is being refashioned or reimagined so that something stronger can emerge.

Yet, I know I am not alone.  And I also know this is a familiar storyline. The Bible is full of stories of the people of God lacking the faith and imagination to get out of their way to see, comprehend, and experience that it is up to us. It is up to God what happens next.

And while we are like the Hebrew people after leaving Egypt--wandering around in the wildness, groaning and complaining about how we were better off before, God is moving, making a way, leading us (if we choose to follow) to a new promised land. Yes, we will find ourselves in a place where we have never been before, but we will not be alone.

We will not be left to our own devices. For the God who has brought us thus far has not left us and will not leave us. God IS still moving, creating, and speaking to us. God is doing a new thing among us. We just need to trust, listen, and believe.

Journeying with you in faith,

Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister