Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A long month, with more to come

Brief history. A little less than a decade ago, Lakebay Community Church purchased some property and began the arduous process of preparing to construct a new building there. A couple things got in the way: The pastor resigned, one of the lead members of the Committee To Build (my title, not theirs) passed away, and the other moved on to another church. Some other stuff happened as well, but just that pastoral transition alone would suffice as a huge hiccup in any building process.

My first two years at Lakebay were spent building health into the leadership, building rapport within the body, and seeking after a prayerful spirit in the community. All the while, we've been slowly chipping away at some of the issues up there on the property. The well was put in and tested. Engineering plans were revisited and revised. The scotch broom was knocked down.

A few months ago, it became obvious that it was time to figure out how to really move ahead with the project. We're almost ready to go for the Conditional Use Permit. Most of the early site work is finished. And we're moving into my 3rd year at the church - transition times are over.

However. . .the church itself has gone through a lot of turnover in the last 10 years. Many who voted to accept the property and accompanying 20/20 vision have left. Many more have come who never were part of that early process. Some of those still around are passionate about finally moving on. A small but vocal minority are just as passionate about not making the move.

And so we have been through a time of listening and discernment over the last few months; specifically, we just completed three Saturday night coffee klatch listening meetings, at which 10-20 people gathered, prayed, and then discussed our future, and, specifically, our plans to move up north.

Let me take us off onto a siding for a moment. The church in which I grew up went through a nasty split when I was but a lad. The first church I worked for went through an even nastier split. The second church I worked for seemed to be in a constant posture of antagonism and positioning. So I have seen my share of dysfunctional meetings. I've witnessed sound people shut off the sound system and walk out the door, in the middle of town meetings. I've witnessed people shouting across the aisles at each other, calling them all sorts of names. I've witnessed older ladies spit on the sanctuary floor to show their distaste for "all these here changes you're making." I've seen friends become enemies, refusing to acknowledge each other as they pass by. I've witnessed division and anger and spite and hatred and animosity over everything from what music to sing, to where the piano should be located, to whether to adopt a green mission statement or a pink one. I've just about seen it all.

All of which feeds my continued amazement and love for the people of Lakebay Community Church. Because they showed up, they shared their opinions, they spoke in kindness and love and humility, they discussed and offered varying viewpoints. . .and they remained dear friends. We had people coming from opposing positions ("We need to move now"; "we should maybe never move, or at least not for a long time. . ."). They shared clearly and concisely, and with some passion, why they felt their position was correct. And then after the meeting they hung around and talked about trips they had taken, or what their kids were doing, or "why don't we get together like this more often?" And over and over again I heard "Look - I'm not going to be divisive about this. . .whatever the church decides, we'll go along."

I almost can't believe the health of this place. They get what church is supposed to be about. And they give me hope that we have a strong future ahead of us, because we're not going to let an issue even as huge as this one divide us.

Let me state this for the record: there was a day when I would have thought it impossible that Christians could meet and talk about selling their church and moving without bickering and spitting on each other. The people of Lakebay Community Church just proved me wrong. And so, while we still seek God's guidance on our somewhat murky future. . .I believe God has laid the groundwork for that future to be bright.

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