Stream of consciousness from driving in my car

Ok, so imagine this: our entire pastoral team, after Tuesday’s team meeting, goes to the Golden Leaf for Thai food. In a freak accident, we are all killed because they garnished with arsenic instead of curry.

What would happen at NFC?

Would all the people suddenly rise up, and all of a sudden take complete responsibility for living out their faith? Would wonderfully creative emergent gatherings emerge out of the ashes, and bring the entire city of Newberg into the Kingdom of God? With us gone, would everyone finally realize that it’s up to them, and do a better job of being the church in the world? Maybe, but probably not.

Would NFC cease to be a programmed Friends meeting? Would they discover a radical, vibrant faith out of the silence, speaking passionately as God led, becoming so on fire with the power of the Spirit that the entire city of Newberg was brought into the Kingdom of God? Maybe, but probably not.

No, the most likely scenario if our pastoral team had a “Thai die” experience is that NFC would go through a search process and issue calls to new pastors. Others would come in to lead NFC. It would be different, because of those individuals different giftings, but it would still be what it is: a fairly traditional, programmed, pastoral Friends meeting.

This is actually incredibly freeing to me, on a number of levels. One, I’m not indispensable. I’m not irreplaceable. The entire world does not rest on my shoulders. At the same time, the community at NFC has chosen to release me into leadership of our community. If I weren’t here, someone else would be helping the group discern God’s call and mission in the world. Someone besides Mauri would be choosing and playing songs. It would look different, but somebody would be released to make some decisions about what our corporate life together might look like.

This is recognizing the reality of 127 years of history as a monthly meeting. I sometimes feel guilty about the decisions I make, the influence I have. I sometimes read Robin’s questions or Beppe’s or Martin’s blog and feel guilty that we aren’t unprogrammed Friends. But generations of faithful Friends are the ones who have made the decision that NFC is a programmed meeting, not me.

I sometimes read or Pagitt’s blog or Theoblogy and feel guilty that we aren’t de-centralized, holistic, hip, culturally relevant emergent people. But this isn’t a church plant. It’s a faith community that has been shaped over generations to be what it is, and we who are here now (we all, not we the pastors), we are charged with listening to Christ to shape this body for the coming generations as well.

Sometimes I worry that because I enjoy preaching (“oh, how modern”), I’m somehow keeping us from becoming emergent. Sometimes I worry that I’m somehow keeping us from being really, truly Quaker simply because I’m a “hireling minister“, simply by virtue of the role I am in.

But if I die or quit or go away or have a nervous breakdown or just decide that I’m going to sit at home with my wife and kids and write books, the reality is that NFC will “hire” another preacher and remain a non-emergent, programmed meeting.

And, good grief, isn’t that ok?

People from our church family have gone around the world changing lives. People from our church family hear God and obey. People in our community are helping each other seek the voice of the Spirit with everything in them and are making a difference in the world. We are who we are, and we aren’t who we aren’t. In a multicultural world, in a Christian climate that has all kinds of expressions of worship and needs and callings, how the heck could we be all things to all people?

And bear with me a little longer, for a little bit of selfishness here: THESE PEOPLE ASKED ME TO COME HERE AND BE PASTOR. I know my faults better than anyone, and they know some of them too. And God led them to extend a call, and Elaine and I to come. I know I’m supposed to be here. My drawings toward the emergent conversation and to Quaker distinctives means that, in reality, I probably will move us more toward those ideals by being pastor than by quitting or dying or moving on.

This may seem incredibly obvious or stupid, but I’m trying to be vulnerable here. I have a lot of things that block me, that hold me back. I’m trying to keep naming them and holding them up to God, and not fall of either side of the precipice. On one side is constant listening and talking…and never doing anything. And on the other is constantly talking and doing and looking like a leader….without listening.

Can I put my heart and passion on the table again? I want to preach; yes, I will work at dialogue, involving others in the teaching journey, sharing the preaching with others, being constantly attentive to the Spirit, and even having Sundays where we don’t have a message at all. But I want to preach, because I want to be a voice that calls our community to be faithful followers of Jesus: actively encountering the living Christ, growing in the faith, finding fresh avenues of doing Christ’s work in the world, and bringing to our community the life-changing message that the God of the universe not only loves you, but wants to direct how you live your life.

I want to release our community to be who God is calling them to be. I don’t want to control it, or manage it, or run it. I want to learn how to empower others. I want to do that with some people one-on-one, and I want to throw my energy and time and passion into creating a church culture that release more and more people.

I want us to create new communities that really are “church”. New communities where we worship, where we love, where we serve, the whole package. I want to learn to empower and equip and mentor new leaders to help those communities be the “church”. I want to learn how to release what I have too tight a hand upon, and how to hold tight to what I should be doing.

Would you help me with that? Does that excite you? Can we do this? Please, Lord Jesus, may it happen.

16 thoughts on “Stream of consciousness from driving in my car

  1. “My drawings toward the emergent conversation and to Quaker distinctives means that, in reality, I probably will move us more toward those ideals by being pastor than by quitting or dying or moving on.”This Friend speaks my mind.


  2. “And, good grief, isn’t that ok?”Yep! In so many ways: It is who God has called you to be. It is who God has called NFC to be. It is meeting a need.And BECAUSE of who you are and how you approach preaching/leadership, NFC will be MORE likely to hear God’s leading (whether they be tweaks as your “every service the same” post questions… or even major overhauls).You know me, Gregg… i’m not a big fan of “preaching-as-worship.” But I’ve experienced it being worshipful, and knowing your heart and your openness to the Spirit, i have deep trust that you speak what needs to be said when it needs to be said. I trust you. I encourage you to continue trusting yourself.(BTW, I also trust the Golden Leaf! mmmmmmm thai food)


  3. Every church body is a compromise built on two millenia of social history. There’s something very powerful in simply being aware of the compromises…When I do a new piece of graphic design, one of first things to do is to decide on a few key limitations: elements that will reoccur and interplay through the work. Without those elements–those limitations–there is no design, just a hodgepodge of ideas. Nothing can move forward because there’s no structure to give guidance. Not that we need to kowtow to religious tradition. But I want to lift up the wisdom you gave, “But generations of faithful Friends are the ones who have made the decision that NFC is a programmed meeting, not me.” I have a natural tendency to want a level of spiritual purity/ingrity but I know that this impulse is its own trap. We’re all just servants of a higher master and we can’t take ourselves that seriously. We’ve been put in a time and place and this is the world we minister and witness within. The practical upshot is that I allow myself to do things that are part of how Quakerism is practiced in my parts even if I don’t think this is the way it should be practiced, trying to keep recognizing that maybe some of the compromises were thought-out and are well-reasoned (a specific example I’m thinking of: we unprogrammed Friends regularly give “honorariums” for “workshops”–I don’t know who we think we’re fooling but it’s totally a form of hireling ministry and I’ve cashed a check or two myself).Anyway, thanks for sharing this post!


  4. Bruce: Thank you. Those words are serious and helpful affirmation, and they mean a lot.Martin, thanks for both the graphic design image and your willingness to admit where unprogrammed Friends may not get it quite right, either. I hope someday this blog community that you are helping find each other could have a face to face experience!And Chris, thank you!


  5. I remember hearing Johan Mauer at FGC’s Gathering more than ten years ago. What I remember is that he challenged us to consider that not all people were amenable to our “traditional” way of doing things (i.e. the silent worship), that perhaps some Meetings could grow if they added a little programming to one of their Meetings for Worship. Perhaps this was how the Spirit could help us to be more inclusive?Interestingly, the Meeting I was a member of at the time had introduced a semi-programmed Meeting, and guess what, some of the neighbors to the Meeting started to attend! They had always wanted to, but were put off by the silence. I left the area shortly after this so I don’t know how things played out in the long run. But, for goodness sakes, why can’t there be some music, some programming, some preaching (I’m of the impression that preaching occurred in “silent” Meetings for most generations of Friends until relatively recently). PS: Sometimes I go to churches that have fully programmed services. Somebody stop me! Great post, Gregg. 🙂


  6. Very good post. :)Hello from Montreal, Canada.My name is Wren and I just happened upon your blog today.I have a family friendly discussion forum, and am trying to get discussion on various sects…or just plain old christian discussion! There is a christian section which already has a couple of threads (sects) in progress. Please feel free to join in the discussion or, if you don’t see your church mentioned in any of the topic titles in that section, please feel free to create your own new topic for it. is free and the forum rules can be found here…. would be an honour to have you post there…that is if you wish to, of course.Have a wonder filled day!


  7. ((former GFC’er, life-long Christian, former member of a church like VVEC, current member of a Calvary Chapel)) Sometimes I worry that I’m somehow keeping us from being really, truly Quaker …Help me understand. Define “being Quaker”. My first thought was a Quaker Standard of Living. Am I close?Do Quakers see themselves as just another denomination … or is it deeper than that?My grandmother was a life long Nazarene. When she would introduce herself to new friends, she wouldn’t say she was a Christian. She was a Nazarene! As I’m sure she knows by now (she died in 1993), there are no demoninations in heaven.Will God reward us for our allegience to a denomination … or is he annoyed by our divisive differences?


  8. Thanks, Beppe and Wren, for your helpful comments!Lucy, I appreciate what you wrote. I don’t desire a goal of “being Quaker.” I was naming an anxiety I have, in that I really have found life in my journey with God through Quaker expressions of worship. I’m drawn to it, but do I defeat it simply by virtue of the role I’m in?Like you said, it’s not about being Quaker. But, I do want to be true to who our community is and has been, and I find there is tremendous life and growth in Quaker theology and practice.


  9. Pingback: Gregg’s Gambles » Blog Archive » Vision

  10. Did early Friends have a heirarchy, probably not. I wonder if the labels get in the way because expectations are connected to the labels. Does the servant make suggestions to the master? Our reliance on the Holy Spirit’s leading seems to me to be paramount to any decisions we make individually or corporately especially as a body. When we first went to a team approach in leadership there weren’t labels like “senior pastor”. Does that designation mean the others are juniors or assistants even tho the “pastor” label is attached?
    I sense that there is a portion of our body that is less than connected to the ongoing spiritual health of our body and may come more out of habit than a real desire to be part of something that is impacting Newberg spiritually. I want the Holy Spirit to be my first source of motivation and direction even if it means I may not be PC. Plant growth occurs both in the roots and out on the tips of branches, may we experience that type of growth by the power of the Holy Spirit in each of us.


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