It was early 2007 that I found myself on a stage facing around 80 members of Southview Community Church (it was Southview Baptist Church at the time). It was a rather unique experience for me as I had never been interviewed for a pastoral position before by so many people at any one time! The church had been going through a period of big change with a new, inexperienced senior pastor, falling attendance and a load of debt. I knew that they were going to be facing some serious changes if they wanted to be viable, let alone survive. So with every question that people asked, I would use the word "change" in my response every time! One person picked up on it and asked what I meant by it. I can't remember word for word what I said, but it came out along these lines:
"5 years from now this church will not be the same church you see today! So be prepared for change"
For some reason, even after that comment, they thought I was good enough to be hired. And thus began quite a frustrating 3 years of trying to implement change. When I left in July of 2010, things had settled really well at Southview. The inexperienced senior pastor was proving to be a great leader, numbers were picking up, debt was being paid off, and there was an overall positive vibe to the place. But. It just wasn't right. The changes felt cosmetic not endemic.
4 years later I've returned to Southview and everything we talked about in those three years I was there has come about. The endemic changes we dreamed of seeing happening have happened. The church is total transformed. It's missional, not just in name, but in culture. It's vibrant, not just in music or presentation, but in people and vision. Literally what we dreamed about in 2007, is now a reality.
I asked William, the senior pastor, what had changed, because in the three years I was there I felt frustrated by the lack of ability to bring about change. His repsonse was simple:
"What is core for you? If the mission is core, then nothing else matters. Everything has to be measured to the mission. We made the mission core."
That really speaks to me! But to be honest, I am conflicted. Southview is the church now that I've dreamed of being a part of. It's everything that speaks to my heart. Being missionally driven to seeing people coming to Christ. Young people being discipled into leadership. Vibrant worship.
Now that I see it, is it me? No, I don't think so! I mean, I like what they have done, I really do, but it's not me. I like the brokeness of Opawa. I really do. It drives me crazy but I love it. I love the brokeness of the people, maybe because they are so much like me. It matches the brokeness of our buildings, it just means there is so much potential for more! Ministry is hard and unpolished (and sometimes painful). I'm not trying to compare the two, but I realise that as Southview has moved on, even if it's on the foundations that I have played a part on laying, so I have moved on as well. But one thing does resonate in me... "What is core for you?"
"The mission is core... then nothing else matters!"
So the question is: "What is the mission?"