Quest gets its share of external visitors wanting to check out the church and the cafe. They’re mostly local (the Pacific Northwest) but at times, folks are actually silly enough to spend money to fly into Seattle. Although, I need to be honest here. Quest is usually an ‘add-on’ to peoples’ church visitation agenda. People fly to Seattle to usually visit Mars Hill or a few other known commodities. I hate being a jerk but the visits take so much time and energy, we usually say, ‘Sorry.’ We occasionally do meet with folks – churchplanters, pastors, cafe starters, reporters, authors, etc. – and they usually fish from the same pool of questions. One prominent question in some form or another is: “What’s been the most significant highlight in your ministry this past year(s)?”
And so, by now, you’d figure I’d have some nice prepared answers but I really don’t. People ask so I share a little about the church growth (we’re still a fairly ‘small church’), the non-profit cafe, the live music venue, the likely merger with another church, a nice recent ‘portrait’ in the Seattle Times, and these are all good things to talk about and share. But at the end of the day, the things I remember most as highlights all deal with PEOPLE. My favorite story – and it’s so random – is a story [this past year] of a young man and woman at Quest. They don’t even know this and I don’t think I’ve shared it with anyone but this incident sticks out to me as one of the most memorable moments since planting Quest. Long story short: I get a phone call one night and this young woman is flowing with joy and excitement. Her boyfriend had just proposed to her. And after sharing with their parents, they chose to call my wife and me to share the good news. We were so moved; so humbled; so privileged and blessed that they would call to share this news with us. I would say that this is one of the most significant moments of my personal ministry.
And this all leads to the joy and struggle of my personal season in ministry. The church = people. Not buildings, not programs, not creeds, not strategic planning, not multi-sites, not CCM songs, not conferences, not emergent language, not blogs, etc. But as a church grows, balance becomes an increasing issue. As much as I know these things, I also know (in our context, culture, and model we’ve chosen with Quest), the element of organizational structure is as important as organic fluidity. Structure does not entail death to Spirit. At least, it doesn’t have to. And yet, I find myself engaging areas that I once used to vehemently criticize. I find myself behind my desk and computer way more than I want to. I find myself as glued to my outlook calendar as to the rhythm reading at church. I find myself needing to embrace another aspect of my ‘job description’ as a spokesperson for the church to the larger community. I find myself having to actually determine and communicate an ‘end time’ to my appointments as to guard my schedule and physical/emotional exhaustion. I find myself having to email folks to say, “I’ll email you back in the next two weeks” so as to find time to write something substantive rather than my infamous 3 line haiku responses.
I was naive six years ago. I was idealistic. Idealism is good and honestly, I never want to relinquish that. But I’m going through this season where my idealism is confronted by ‘realities.’
As I shared earlier, I’m learning about this ‘balance’ and learning about what it means to equip, empower, and trust those around me. At Quest, we’ve been blessed by the presence of those who invest in the larger mission of the church – but particularly, our members, community group leaders, ministry leaders, and pastors and elders. While I love the opportunities to DO LIFE with all that call Quest their church, I’ve come to terms that I can’t be the personal pastor to each and every single person. And for that reason, I’ve shared with our church community that the past couple years have been a time of both rejoicing and grieving. Rejoicing because God is working. Greiving because at times, it’s very uncomfortable.
I’m learning to embrace my morphing identity – not only to be a pastor to this church but a pastor, in a sense, to the larger city of Seattle and beyond – in some shape or another. I know that I must work alongside and invest (and be held accountable) in our leadership, elders, and pastors, so that they can do what I simply can’t do very well – love and shepherd the PERSON. I’ve come to terms that my changing role at Quest is to be mindful of the PERSON but to also speak to the PEOPLE. And so, together, we’re all working together to honor one of our values of ‘the human soul.’
I want to ask Questers to be patient as I serve you as one of your pastors and continue our journey in the ‘priesthood of believers’; for your understanding about the complexity in this season as Quest (and I) endure through growing pains; my fellows pastors, elders, and leaders to be gracious as I/we stumble along; and other external pastors in blogosphere to share any words of advice as they have or are struggling in this balance between his/her role as pastor to the person and/or/both/vs/huh/what people.