As I write this article, Brian and I are flying home from visiting our son, who lives on the Western Slope, part of Colorado that is west of the Continental Divide. Each time we visit Sam, we leave completely awestruck by the vastness of the West. This visit was no different. We drove over mountain passes so steep and narrow that the slightest swerve to the left or right would mean hurtling over a jagged cliff. We sat on a picnic table in the rain and watched fearsome streaks of lighting strike the Grand Mesa – from over 20 miles away. We observed pictographs and petroglyphs created by people who lived thousands of years ago. To this day, archeologists can only guess at the spiritual meaning behind the intriguing wall art of an ancient people.
Awe, light, and mystery. Yet, of all the faith metaphors found in the harsh Colorado backcountry, the one that struck me most was a fact surrounding Ponderosa Pines. Did you know that the seeds of these trees, which grow at altitudes of 5,000 feet or higher, are opened and germinated through only one means, the heat and burn of fire. Their rebirth requires fire.
With this faith metaphor in mind, I found myself contemplating a question: In our faith, are there certain historical practices or ways of being that we must burn down in order to refresh, renew, and restore? Since the world is constantly evolving, there are likely more than a few. For example, Jesus tells us to follow Him, and most of us do this quite well. However, have we internalized followership? Has our church institutionalized followership? As non-clergy people, do we tend to view ourselves as less than? Sadly, the definition of the word “laity” often reinforces the belief that we are not specially skilled to serve as faith leaders.
To thrive in a modern world, our church needs leaders of all varieties and backgrounds. We must institutionalize leadership creation. Leaders must be willing to share power and nurture new leaders; I believe the fate of Christianity depends on it. As Paul states (in my own words), by the grace of God, each of us has been given unique gifts meant to be nurtured, refined, and shared. We are called to break down the negative perception of organized religion and present ourselves to the world lovingly as entrepreneurial and creative Christians.
Try on something new. Whether you long to fulfill a leadership ministry in our church or the broader world, Saint John’s is the place to discern your call. We are gifted with the abundant resources and support offered by the Episcopal Church, our clergy, and each other. Break away from a followership mentality. Let the heat of God’s light burn down that which holds you back and, with confidence, lead the way to new growth.
For just as Jesus called His disciples friends and then commissioned them to go out into the world, we, too, must go forth, leading the personal ministry that God designed specially for each one of us.