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do what feels right

no, i am not giving in to cultural pressures after 10 years of ordained ministry and saying let's do our own thing! what i mean to say today is maybe the problems many of us are facing are the results of our sticking to a plan or model that sounded good at the beginning, but has grown stale over time. maybe it's time to go in a new direction.

one of my favorite scriptures: "behold, i am making all things new" (revelation 21:5).

sometimes we think we have everything planned out, we're headed in the right direction. we're sure of it, maybe we've even prayed about it. then we get frustrated. things don't seem to go well. maybe that's the time to pull up anchor and chart a new course.

when i came to prosper three months ago, it was obvious that there was a profound opportunity for ministry. i knew the town had 6,000 people, but was aware of the north texas tollway extension coming through town, the "development" of land for new housing (i'm still uncomfortable with the term, as if farming isn't a wonderful use of land), and the thousands of new families projected to move into the area over the next few years. the methodist church has been in town longer than any other-- nearly 100 years. i knew the church needed to prepare itself for the coming changes, and that was going to be one of my main priorities.

still, i was mindful of the advice of my friend, another pastor in the conference, who told me a few years ago when i was new in a different church: "the first year change nothing; the second year change everything." that makes a lot of sense to me. we cannot change too quickly, or there will be resistence. so my plan was go with the flow. lead quietly, not galloping on horseback, sword drawn, into the battle for the future.

that attitude lasted about a month. it became clear to me that the church was not ready for growth because it did not have an established vision. the church did some visioning a few years ago, but nothing really moved forward from there. it was obvious that folk were frustrated, and it seemed like every visit i made people were asking about the vision. so i moved my timetable up about 18 months. last night was the first meeting of prosper church's joel committee, a team assembled to eastablish the vision for this place.

i began to feel sort of listless in my preaching. my normal practice is to preach in series, developing a theme over a period of weeks. my current series, "walking with Jesus," developing the characters around Christ's passion further, has gone well, but after last sunday i began to struggle in my preparation, realizing there were three sermons left in the series! and i began thinking about my summer preaching series, but for whatever reason i didn't feel excited about it like i did when i first outlined it.

so i decided to scrap both. i'll finish "walking" this sunday, then preach sermons over the summer that will not be part of a series. they will be drawn from the lectionary, mostly old testament texts (if you don't know, the revised common lectionary is used by many different churches. every sunday of the year has an old testament, a psalm, a gospel, and an epistle. it follows the church calendar). many of the texts i selected for the summer are ones i have never preached on before. lectionary preachers say preaching series allows the preacher to say what she wants to say, not to be so accountable to the texts of the week. i don't buy the argument, but for some reason i feel excited about this new plan.

i hope these recent decisions reflect the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life, and in the life of the church. i think they do. it would be very safe to sort of wander about the hallways here for another year or so before beginning a visioning process. but i would feel restless and frustrated. i'll be the first to admit i am a change agent, excited at the possibility of new challenges. once i establish a plan it can be hard to take it in a new way. but i am certain that is what God is doing to me and this church. my preaching will almost certainly feel more authentic this summer to me-- no one else would have noticed the difference. and once the church establishes its vision, folk will respond.

so yeah-- do what feels right. just be sure it is in accordance with God's will, not our own. i'm not talking about sleeping in on sundays or spending a few months' tithe on a new t.v. i'm saying let's not be so stuck to our action plans that we lose touch with the Spirit. because then nothing will feel right.


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