Shuffling the Deck

Not so long ago, I was at my home church having been away for awhile when I ran into a friend in ministry from another tradition. I expressed genuine delight at seeing this person with their family at ‘my’ church and voiced my assumption that they were visiting. “Oh”, they said, “we’ve been coming here for awhile now.” Mildly taken aback, I expressed even greater delight while stifling my surprise and my temporary embarrassment. Actually, I wanted to say, “Yes, of course you’re here now. How come I didn’t know this? I thought you belonged somewhere else.”

Please don’t misunderstand. I was truly pleased to discover that this couple had chosen to sojourn with us. They are gifted mature disciples of Jesus Christ who would not have made a decision like this without careful thought and prayerful discernment. My ‘mixed’ reaction probably had more to do with coming to terms with the reality of change experienced recently ‘in transition’ myself. I truly believe, in fact, that this family’s transition could be an example of God ‘shuffling the deck’ for his kingdom purposes.

What does all this have to do with this entry? My times spent with Doug and Brent have prepared me not only to accept God-inspired change in the body of Christ but to some extent learn to expect and embrace it. I say ‘learn’ because sometimes genuine transition is not easy for leaders to accept as it can involve being on the giving side, not only on the receiving end…hard when it means letting go of cherished gifts of some folk that are needed elsewhere. This is where, for me, the strength of our ‘soul group’ comes in.

I believe the three of us came together partly out of necessity in a time of unusual ferment in the local church in the city. When we began to meet (shortly after the ’98 Ottawa Billy Mission), another whole chapter in the church of the region was opening up. God was turning the ‘spiritual soil’ of the city. There would be many changes and transitions to come (mostly positive) as God was ordering us and others for new mission possibilities. To ensure we continue to grow along with the rest of the Body during this exciting period of positive change, the three of us instinctively knew we would need to be more grounded in those things that don’t change, e.g. the unique authority of the gospel, the essential unity of the church in Jesus and the irreplaceable place of prayer.

As we began to meet, these pillars experienced in community enriched and helped to sustain us over and over again in all the ups and downs these changes would bring. This has proved to be so true in my experience to this day. Our meeting has helped root me not so much in the theory, but application of gospel truth in areas of personal vulnerability (…sometimes involving confession and prayer) in such a way that, as I continue in transition, I can see myself more clearly in God’s unfolding plan.

Not all change in the church is good, but with this foundation strengthened by the gift we are to each other, I’m a lot less surprised (or threatened) when God shuffles the deck.

It’s a good thing.