Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Either All Things Are In Decay, Or God Is Making All Things New...

Just thought I'd share with you the lyrics to the song, Ghost Rider. The lyricist, Neil Peart lost his wife (breast cancer) and daughter (auto accident) within a year. Peart, a motorcyclist, hopped on his R1100GS BMW, and proceeded to ride over 56,000 miles over the next nine months on a quest to make sense of things, and find out if life really was worth living. The song is a good summation of what it's like for anyone who has lost someone, or is having a hard time discerning what God might have in store before any healing comes.

Pack up all those phantoms
Shoulder that invisable load
Keep on riding North and West
Haunting that wilderness route
Like a Ghost Rider

Carry all those phantoms
through bitter wind and stormy skies
from the desert to the mountain
from the lowest low to the highest high
like a Ghost Rider

Keep on riding North and West
Then circle South and East
Show me beauty but there is no peace
for the Ghost Rider

Shadows on the road behind
Shadows on the road ahead
There's nothing to stop you now
Nothing can stop you now

Sunrise in a mirror
Lightens an invisable load
Riding on an aimless quest
Haunting that wilderness route
like a Ghost Rider

Just an escape artist racing against the night
a wandering hermit racing toward the light
from the white sands to the canyon lands
to the redwood stands to the barren lands... to the barren lands

Sunrise on the road behind
Sunset on the road ahead
Nothing can stop you now
Nothing can stop you now

Nothing can stop you now
Nothing can stop you now
(There's nothing left if there's nothing left
Ghost Rider)

Am currently working on my 2nd Chapter of my dissertation, which is the theological underpining of my study. Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure exactly where this thing is going, so as a way of getting some clarity, I decided to take a look at every single pastoral transition in the West Ohio Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church involving pastors who pastored, or would end up pastoring a church with an average annual worship attendance of 250 or more. There are more than 260 appointments that have been made fitting that criteria from 1990 to 2005, and I've looked at every single one of them.

What have I learned?

Well, just preliminarily, everytime the Cabinet makes a new appointment, if history is any indicator, there is about a 66% chance that the new pastor will either lead the church to no new growth, or into decline. What's more, the fabulous growth of a few churches (Reynoldsburg, Sidney First, Greenville Evangelical, Toledo Upton, and our own Shawnee.... to name a few) hide the fact that there are dozens declining at an alarming rate.

But here's the catch...

Of those churches that have grown big, and are getting bigger, a good many of them will be looking at a pastoral change in the next three or four years. The lead churches on the edge of this trend of having to make a pastoral transition, particularly the ones that have had Senior Pastors that have been there a very long time, are struggling to do so. Considering that our second largest church, Reynoldsburg is in the midst of an unexpected transition (due to pastoral misconduct), and our other standard bearers (Ginghamsburg, Kettering Christ, Hyde Park) all have Senior Pastors who are all nearing retirement, the numbers tell me that there should be reason for concern in the Bishop's office if we keep doing business as usual.

Pretty troubling if you believe that all things are in decay... but what if God is making all things new? What do you think that looks like, on the other side of what will be?

As one of the pastors, waiting for that inevitable call, let's just say I'm staring down Jericho with nothing but a trumpet, a will to march in circles, and some crazy words from God in my ear.

There's a shadow on the road behind
There's a shadow on the road ahead
Nothing can stop you now
Nothing can stop you now
There's nothing left, if there's nothing left.... Ghost Rider

1 comment:

Mark Stephenson said...

Just so you know, Mike Slaughter at Ginghamsburg has said he plans to stay at Ginghamsburg for about 15 more years. So he has a ways to go before retirement.