If you drive along any significant waterway in our area, you are likely to see some boats that have been pulled up out of the water and are sitting on some kind of scaffolding structure. This always looks odd, because boats are made to be in the water.
But “dry docking” a boat serves a significant purpose. It is a time to prepare the vessel for many more successful adventures by scrapping off barnacles, repairing any leaks, and securing the hull. A season of preparation then gives way to many more seasons of in-the-water action.
At the beginning of this month, our entire East Hills staff was down at the annual conference for the Alliance Northwest. This district comprises all the Alliance churches in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska about 100 gathering places total.
Our district leader, Randy Shaw, declared a season of “dry dock” for us last year when he was elected to his role. This has been a season of evaluating what our district of churches can do to better reach people for Christ and build them in Christ. It has also been a time of listening, as Randy travels around the area and meets with church leaders to hear their heart and vision.
This year’s conference was all about preparing the boat to launch back into open water. Randy unveiled a new vision statement for the district, Courageously following Jesus in the world as family. This statement defines who we are- a united family of brothers and sisters in Christ- and what we do- live in the world as Jesus lived, to bring people into a deeper relationship with God. Randy also shared four messages about what it takes to follow Jesus in a new season.
I have been reflecting on these messages this last week as they relate to East Hills. While we haven’t used the phrase “dry dock”, we are certainly in a significant season of preparation.
God has led us in a vision of launching a second campus in Longview in the Fall of this year. We believe that we will build more people in Christ and reach more people for Christ by multiplying ourselves than we could if we just all stayed in the same building. A vision like this takes time, and has many different components. So what will guide us through this time? I offer you the heart of Randy’s four messages as a helpful paradigm for all of us.
Whatever season you may be in personally, I believe these ideas will help you frame the future:
1. We need a confidence to take risks because we walk with the Father. Randy led us to consider the story from Genesis about Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him to the Lord. From Isaac’s perspective, this story has a unique twist. From all we can tell, Isaac would have been a young teen, and his dad Abraham a man of over a 115 years old! Surely Isaac could have over-powered or out-ran his dad to prevent being tied up for sacrifice. Instead, he is laid on the altar. In this, we see a trust that Isaac had in his father. He had confidence that his dad knew what he was doing, and so he submitted himself to his father’s will. So also for you and I, we will be unlikely to take risks or do anything out of the ordinary unless we have a confidence that God is in it.
2. Most skills are taught rather than caught, so we need to model first what we want to pass on to others. Randy spent some humorous moments at the conference teaching us how to swing a baseball bat. Randy has never played baseball, so he was teaching the elements based on what he had learned from Google! His point was well-made: if we want our churches to build people in Christ and reach people for Christ, then we had better know how to do these things ourselves and practice them on a regular basis. A season of preparation is a time where we develop new skills. We learn to walk closely with Christ and to be a friend of those who are far from Christ. As we do this personally, we can teach others to do the same.
3. We need to willingly address the tough stuff in a heart of love. Randy posed a poignant question to us, “Do we want to be a family that just meets together, or one that goes somewhere together?” Families that only meet together often ignore difficult issues. Problems go undressed. Conflict stays unresolved. And the family remains relationally disconnected even though they are close in proximity. In order to pursue God’s will together, we must be willing to address difficult issues and work towards healing in all our relationships.
4. We go where Jesus leads us, even if this means new or unknown territory. Randy called us to walk in new ways as churches and leaders. This is hard! Learning anything new and changing our normal rhythm feels uncomfortable. But if we want to go where Jesus is leading, change is inevitable. So for you and I, as we look at new seasons in our church and in our lives, we must be ready to walk in new places with Jesus. As we look to the future as a district, as a church, and as individuals, may we have a new confidence that we can do this- not because we have what it takes, but because we have the ONE who takes us there. God is on the move. Let’s move with Him!