Monday, April 23, 2018

Re-Thinking 'Victory'

[an open-letter to my congregation]


This weekend is an annual event for the American Baptist Churches in our state  -- the Big Sky Area Celebration -- where pastors and members of ABC churches from Montana will gather in Great Falls to worship, fellowship, learn, and make organizational decisions together. It's sure to be a great time.

In addition to these exercises, however, I was invited to participate in another activity that will periodically happen throughout this weekend: the sharing of church 'victory' stories. A number of us from different churches around the state have been asked to share about ways that God has proven victorious in our congregations and communities over the last year. Fun! I'm excited!

But this invitation has also forced me to ponder how to best measure church 'victory.' What does it mean to be successful as a church? How do we define achievement? Who gets to determine success? Are there benchmarks for measuring "victories?" What if we don't live up to the church across the street or the ABC church down the road?

And maybe, more importantly, I'm forced to wrestle with how I will specifically articulate the 'victories' of our specific church. Is it all about numbers, in attendance, giving, and baptisms? Will I boast about our events and programs? Will I attempt to show how awesome we are? Will I be tempted to exaggerate our 'success' to inflate my ego? 

Darn you, Pam Davies! Why did you ask me to do this?! 

After sitting down to think and pray for a few moments, however, I've realized that the ONLY thing I can talk about that would accurately convey the 'victories' we have witnessed at our church this past year is to tell the stories of small, intimate, personal ministry. 

Sure, I'll briefly mention a few fun things we've accomplished this year, but mostly I'll tell stories about people actually knowing and caring for one another, and our broader community, in simple, profound ways. I'll tell stories about gift cards, head lice, small group prayer, and a man off the street...and I'll cry the whole time as I remember those moments and picture the beautiful faces of my beautiful congregants who so often bless our world in beautiful ways.

So, thank you for a 'victorious' year of ministry. But thank you for being 'victorious' in all the right ways. Thank you for getting to know one another. Thank you for caring for one another. Thank you for blessing our world. I'm one lucky pastor to have gotten to witness this 'victorious' year of ministry.

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