“We’re fixin’ to get ready to commence to begin to start to do something—maybe,” says Dave with a note of irritation in his voice when Pastor Marty Williams comes into the classroom and innocently asks, “What are you doing?”
Dave is setting up tables and laying out folders full of material for everyone he expects to attend a Vision Team huddle.
Pastor Williams agreed to form the Vision Team because Dave Oldham pressured him to do so, but he is just not sure the congregation is ready yet for transition and change.
Dave is a long-term member of the congregation, is now in his seventies, is chairperson of the board, and angry the pastor is not providing better leadership.
“Pastor, I am going to do something even if it kills me! Even if it kills you,” declares Dave shaking his finger in the pastor’s face. “We cannot keep going like we have been doing since you came as pastor.
“I know it is not your fault. We were like this when you came to Greenville three years ago. You have just not done enough since you came to turn the church around.”
This is only Marty Williams’ second pastorate since his ordination. His first, in a small county seat town, did not have high expectations of his leadership. They liked things to stay the same. In their opinion Marty should not change anything. He should simply be their chaplain and worship leader.
Highland Park Church is different. It is in a transitional neighborhood in a mid-sized city and has declined in attendance for three decades. Many times Marty has heard Dave utter the cliché, “It is time to speak up or shut up.” But, he is not always sure what Dave means by this statement.
If you haven’t guessed by now, Marty Williams is a quiet and passive person. He is a better fit to be pastor of his former church.
With the medical needs of his nine-year-old daughter, he and his wife decided several years ago to seek a pastorate in the same city as a major medical facility. The move to Greenville was great for his family and his daughter’s health. His daughter’s situation is chronic and requires the medical capacities of the hospital and doctor practice they found in this city.
Marty finally spoke up with some fear as to Dave’s reaction. “Dave, remember Shellie Townsend is coming tonight to talk about the factors of readiness and the seven radical questions our congregation must answer to become ready for God’s empowering vision.”
Dave snorted, “I have so many things planned for tonight that I am not sure we have time for her.”
“Please, Dave,” Marty pled. “She is driving two hours to get here. Not only do we need to give her the 45 minutes we promised, but we need to let her speak early in our meeting.
“She needs to drive back tonight. Besides, I shared her inventory with you, and even you said it raised some good points we need to hear.”
As he started to respond, Dave realized two Vision Team members were standing tin the doorway, he waved with disgust in the pastor’s direction, and then turned to greet two ladies arriving for the huddle.
He really wanted to say to the pastor, “What does an outsider who sits in an office at our denominational headquarters know about what our church needs and if it is ready for a new vision?”
Marty greeted the ladies and then excused himself to go welcome Shellie Townsend, who should be arriving soon, and to warn her the environment in the meeting might be hostile—at least from the chairperson.
Vision Team members Marie and Jessica are not just any ladies in the congregation. They are co-leaders of most everything women do in the church and the community. Everyone in the church knows them as spiritually passionate people who serve with a prophetic zeal about the mission of God. Many people openly express great respect for their ministry commitment.
For Dave, they are a barrier. Marie and Jessica have an agenda. Dave has an agenda. They just are not the same agenda.
Marie and Jessica feel the opportunities and challenges faced by the congregation relate to the lack of spiritual depth, the ability to discern God’s empowering vision for the congregation, and leadership that is permission-giving for ministry expansion. They long for spiritual discernment of the best strategies to move the congregation forward.
Jessica wants an innovative approach to acquire financial resources that support new program and ministry initiatives in the congregation, plus local and global missional engagement.
Dave, on the other hand, is interested in leadership which focuses the direction of the congregation on efficient execution of plans, renewal of strategies and tactics which have historically worked for the congregation, plus affirmation of the cultural heritage of the congregation.
He would reallocate the financial resources of the congregation to eliminate debt, and spend more money on the congregation rather than so much money on local and global missions.
The only issue around which all three agree is urgency. Dave feels the choices for the future vitality and vibrancy of the congregation are becoming fewer and fewer. He is in a panic about the need to act now.
Marie and Jessica see great potential for the future of the congregation. Their sense of urgency is around the joy of embracing the opportunities in front of them. They have positive spiritual passion about the future toward which God was leading the congregation.
They all want to know the answer to the question, “Are we ready yet?” By this they mean, “Is the congregation ready to take decisive action that moves them forward?” Enough talk. Action is needed—now.
Within a few minutes the dozen or so people on the Vision Team arrive for the huddle. Shellie Townsend sets up her equipment to show a PowerPoint presentation on the seven radical questions a congregation like Highland Park needs to answer before they were ready for a spiritual and strategic journey into God’s future for their congregation.
As the meeting begins Pastor Marty Williams ponders the question, “Are we ready yet?” He also wonders if he is fully ready to lead them.