I’ve now passed the 7 month mark in this position, and I continue to learn. Some random reflections:
- Nebraska is a BIG state. I’ll drive about 40,000 miles this year. I don’t mind the travel, but distance is a reality to deal with. I suspect at least one and probably two of the Assistants will drive even more. Videoconferencing and similar technology will help shrink the distances somewhat, but there’s no substitute for physical presence.
- Blogging takes time. I had sincere hopes (and renewed goals) of weekly posting. But while there’s plenty of “windshield time” for thinking about posts, “screen time” gets taken up with myriad tasks.
- Facebook has its uses. Posting–especially with photos (even lousy ones) is a way of reminding people how diverse yet connected we are. All of us on staff are trying to make more and better use of social media, which is a quick and efficient way of communicating.
- “Hospitality” trumps “friendliness” every day of the week; and twice on Sunday. Every congregation is friendly–which usually means we talk to our friends. Scripture is filled with expectations of hospitality, which means ALL are welcome and treated as God’s guests–or as Jesus himself. This is a subtle but enormous shift for a congregation to undertake, but it’s not optional.
- I’m not an optimist. Or a pessimist. A colleague of mine said it took him a full year to realize that it wasn’t his job just to be a “cheerleader” for the church. I understand that pull. But I’m more interested in telling the story of the Nebraska Synod than in simply cheering its ministries and members. I’m not optimistic, nor am I pessimistic. The former says the glass is half full, the latter that it’s half empty. I’m hopeful. I think it’s simply time to go to the tap again for more Living Water.
- The road between Antioch and Jerusalem isn’t very crowded. Most of us in the Church (in Jerusalem) are comfortable where we are, and have (often unacknowledged, but clear) expectations of others becoming like us. Many in the surrounding culture (in Antioch) view the Church as exclusive, judgmental, or simply irrelevant, and have expectations (often unacknowledged, but clear) of the Church becoming like them. I don’t know how we do it better, but all of us–Jerusalemites and Antiochians–need to realize we’re most likely to meet Jesus on the road, where we’ll also meet each other, and those who are wandering, hoping to find the Way.
- Christ is the head of the Church. Synod staff get to be the connective tissue. We have hierarchical titles, like “bishop,” but we have a flat, flexible, relational structure; the only hierarch is Christ. Bishops and staffers get to travel from one part of this Body to another, connecting the feet with the hands with the mouth with the ears–congregations to ministries to congregations and more.
- This is just about the best gig in the world. Dave deFreese said quite accurately “the highs are higher and the lows are lower” for a bishop than for a parish pastor. But even the lows are interesting! It’s a privilege to be invited into congregations for celebration (and for crisis); to speak and vote for the church on boards of agencies and institutions; to hold (and be held) accountable to the expectations, rules and roles we’ve set for one another; to serve among gifted colleagues and leaders; to say both “please” and “thank you” for the gifts and support that touch thousands of lives daily through the church’s ministries; and to witness and give witness to the deep faith that permeates this synod. Thank you for that privilege.
- The challenges ahead are formidable–and I’m not speaking of this office (though that would be true as well). We are all in the midst of change that can only be described as tumultuous. No one knows what adaptations and transformations we need to make to engage that change. Only repeated attempts (and frequent failures) will help us bear witness faithfully and effectively. And only continual communication among us will help us learn, grow and be transformed into the Church Christ calls us to be.
I look forward to seeing you on the road, learning from your mistakes and your successes, and communicating with you frequently.