When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. "What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"
The Twelve Harvest HandsThe prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives.
I'm trying to process conflicting and contradictory concepts at the moment:
Concepts that I think may be key in our moving from an inherited model of church to a Missional model. Concepts that may signal the difference between being engaged in the Mission of God and ensuring the survival of an institution.
Please be clear that what I share is my questioning, not criticism and not solutions.
A phrase I've heard numerous times in the last few weeks is: "we must stop taking minsters out of the parish ministry pool". And yet, a growing phenomenon in the Church of Scotland at present (and one that is being actively encouraged) is the influx of ministers ordained to word and sacrament from other (selective) countries. To increase our pool, we diminish another pool.
We are also engaged in a huge recruitment exercise, largely aimed at under 45s, assessing those who respond using robust but traditional methods and then slotting those who survive that into a programme of training and theological education that is generic.
Stefan Paas suggested at a recent conference that, if a person has been able to endure the prescribed route into parish ministry, which includes the rigour of gaining a theological degree, they are unlikely to have the necessary skills for entrepreneurial or pioneer ministry.
And yet, haven't those called to ministry been prepared to jump through all sorts of hoops in order to get to a place or to gain the recognition required to practice ministry in all its forms? Operating within the confines of an institution should not mean that, when the opportunity presents itself, one shouldn't be released into a Missional calling.
And, if the reshaping God is about today signals anything, it is that renewal will come from the fringes and leadership will grow there too. Structures and compliance tend to squash that growth on the margins.
It seems that, more than ever, we need to hold things lightly, using structure to equip and empower rather than curtail. And that this freedom should extend to the growth of new leaders as well as being extended to those chafing within the confines of the institution.
So, how do we hold lightly and yet not subscribe to an "anything goes" approach to ministry?
How do we honour our Presbyterian need for good order while responding to the ravages of the Spirit, allowing the Spirit to blow through our structures yet maintaining a culture of care and support for those who are dependant on such structures?
Path of Renewal has, from the outset, sought to be an agent of transitioning inherited to Missional, to embrace the adaptive challenge of changing a culture and mindset, to be a movement and not a programme.
Perhaps that also calls for a more intentional naming of the questions and tensions that are around, the dichotomies with which we engage in this time of upsetting and reshaping.
And, for sure, it calls for a continued openness to the Spirit of God, showing us the way through the wilderness for this age in all its complexity and confusion.