I’m now mid-flight, rammed in economy between two very delightful people. There are a little under two hours to Detroit, where I change for Dallas. I’ve watched two terrific films; Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Moneyball. I’d never get round to watching either at home; they don’t pass the film night criteria for a QNI (Quiet Night In) with Rosslyn.
In my last post I outline some of the reason not to go to Dallas. It’s only fair that I give the other side of the argument. So how do I defend the decision against the imaginary detractors? Here are the four reasons that swayed the argument in my favour!
1. It’s a break from the normal
Isn’t a change supposed to be as good as a rest? I can’t afford to take a rest. There’s too much to do at CCB at the moment. And so a change is a welcome intervention! I’m not bored of ministry at CCB. God has been very good to us and there have been lots of encouragements amidst the turbulence of the last six months. Moving into the office and sharing a ministry life with the apprentices has been a real joy. Seeing the numbers of people who’ve professed faith for the first time has been the highlight. But I’ve been doing it non-stop for ten years now. And this definitely changes the routine. It’s an opportunity to do something different. I preach to our crowd almost every week. And I love it. I’ve especially loved preaching my way through Exodus with the morning crowd. And the week has a typical shape to it. It can feel a little ‘samey’ (if that’s a word). Monday is recovery day. Tuesday is staff meeting and the administration and ministry contact that falls out of that. Wednesday is Apprenticeship Workshop day over in Wimbledon and Co-Mission meetings. Thursday involves reading the Bible with one or two lads and specific church planting training for our Brixton bound apprentice. Hopefully I get to the text in some meaningful way before the close of play. Friday is finish sermon day but is wonderfully interrupted by a trip up to town to read with one of the lads who’s been converted. Saturday is a welcome day off. Sunday starts early and finishes late, which is why Monday is unproductive! This is a break from that well-worn routine. And I’m really looking forward to it! But it also gets me out of my comfort zone. This kind of disruption to the normal forces me to depend on the Lord. It prompts me pray in unexpected places and times. and that’s no bad thing.
2. It’s a chance to see another ministry
It exposes me to something different. I’ve never been to Dallas before. I haven’t got to know a whole heap of American Christians. They can’t all be like the nut jobs they’re depicted as in mainstream American media. I used to work with one of them and he was brilliant. I’d like to meet a whole load more like him and find out what Christian discipleship looks like in the States. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with the Minister, Bill Lovell and chewing the fat. We may compare notes about the experience of church planting. And it’ll be fascinating to hear his testimony of how God helped him and his family deal with the theological and political wrangling in ECUSA. But mainly I’m looking forward to talking to a guy who’s been in ministry for a whole heap longer than I have but who thought enough of my preaching to fly me half way across the world to talk to his congregation. He’s worked with some really good guys (Tom Oates and David Short) as well as pastoring the main Episcopal Church in Dallas before planting Christ Church Carrollton. I’ll be taken notes in our conversations! One of the great joys of going to Madagascar back in November was the questions I had to ask myself about my own Christian life. I’d operated with a level of sacrificial service that I thought was acceptable and sustainable. Seeing the guys in Madritsara and what they had to cope with forced me to reconsider what cost looked like in our own context of comfortable middle class Balham. I could also do with some new stories. And I’m confident that the clash of cultures is going to give me more than enough stories for the next five years in ministry!
3. It’s a treat
Let’s call a spade a spade. There is something enjoyably indulgent about this trip. That doesn’t mean it’s bad but it does mean there needs to be good reasons to justify it! I wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t been asked to and paid for. It feels like a timely gift from God to get away and I’m very grateful for it. Apart from a couple of trips in the last 20 years to New York, I’ve not been to America. And I’m pretty sure that the rest of the States isn’t like Manhattan. And so I’m really looking forward to what Carrollton and Frisco (where I’m staying with a family) looks like. The kids are looking forward to the presents I’ll bring back. CCB are waiting with baited breath to see whether I can resist the cowboy boots and stetson. Rosslyn just wants me back! I’m looking forward to uninterrupted sun for five days!
4. It’s an opportunity for ministry
Though Rufus and Flora discovered via Google Earth that the house I’m staying at has a swimming pool, I am going there to work. Honest. I’ve worked hard on 1 Corinthians over the last ten years. I was introduced to it at Theological College with Dr Paul Woodbridge. I’ve preached my way through it twice at CCB. It’s been the book in Knowing God this year. And I’ve given seven talks on the opening chapters in another context. I’m beginning to get to grips with it! And I think it’s got some really important things to say to young church plants who are finding their way in a secular culture. I’ll never write a book out of this because Vaughan Roberts cornered the market with his. But it’s a chance to help a group of Christian brothers and sisters think through the implications of these passages for their own church planting endeavours in another corner of God’s kingdom. And if there’s any way that I can help with that, then that’s terrific.
It’s probably worth saying that Rosslyn and I didn’t linger long over the decision to go. Though she’d prefer to be on the plane, she’s happy that I am. We both felt that the benefits far outweighed the costs. I’ll let you know. But I’m pretty confident I’ll be proved right!