You don’t have to have followed this blog for long to know that I have struggled with leadership this year.
And I can’t say that I was sad to take a few Sundays off from church over the summer. I wasn’t sad not to have to organise the nitty-gritty of making Sundays happen. I wasn’t sad not to be available in person or on my phone. I wasn’t sad not to have to write sermons. I just wasn’t sad not to have to be there.
Or so I thought.
Then I spent an evening mid-way through our break with my co-leaders, hearing my husband tell terrible jokes about cigarette machines and bar snacks (don’t ask him – he will tell you), listening to the Ghanaian-Nigerian bickering which seems to characterise a good proportion of the team banter, usually with a few white people jokes aimed at my husband and me and thrown in for good measure. Once again, as so often with these guys, I laughed until I cried. Then we relived the repeatable jokes after we left because one of my co-leaders thought they should post them on Facebook for the rest of the LifeGiving family to see.
And then it hit me. It really hit me. I may not love church but I really love these guys.
A little later, on the very last night of my leave, I went to a hen night in a posh London hotel. There was a mix of church girls and others there. We ate and laughed. We played the obligatory games. My ability to strut down a catwalk wearing a toilet paper ‘wedding dress’ surprised a few, I suspect. I don’t suppose the non-Christian ladies see pastors in quite the same light after that anyway. I gather that after I left the night even turned into a prayer session. That doesn’t entirely surprise me actually. LifeGiving has form for this kind of thing even when there are lots of non-Christians present. In fact, we saw someone come to faith at the last hen party where this happened.
And as I reflected on the evening, it hit me again. Really hit me. I may not love church but I really do love these guys.
Now I know that there’s something gone astray here. What is the church but the people, after all? What are Sundays supposed to be but structures that serve – surely they were never meant to take on a life of their own quite apart from the family they support? I know that I have some thinking to do, perhaps some adjustments to suggest to the team as a result of my reflections.
Yet for now I smile. God knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he? I fall out of love with the church all the time. Who would do it for fun, these Sunday meetings, mid-week studies, intense conversations, community outreach? Who would choose to carry so much responsibility, to organise the practical and the spiritual, to mourn with those who mourn, to invest all they have only to see people move on?
I fall out of love with the church ALL the time.
But I also fall in love with the people over and over and over again.
And that’s how God’s still got me here.