Many recent conversations I have shared with friends and colleagues have reminded me of an important choice we make as human beings, as followers of Jesus, and as ministers of the gospel. It is a choice that we are confronted with on a daily basis as we make decisions, manage our time, dream about the future and engage in community. I believe that how we choose to respond to this question has a much deeper impact than we even realize. The question is this – In a world of uncertainty and instability, will we choose to be guided by fear or by faith?
Much of the fear I have experienced as a church planter and pastor revolves around the sustainability of a congregation. Almost every time I am asked about the sustainability (which always refers to finances) of our new church start, I am reminded of how easily I can move into a posture of fear. Even from well-meaning encouragers, questions that cut right to the heart of my insecurities can so easily cause me to want to respond out of fear and anxiety. Fear leads me to want to take control, to work harder to manipulate people and situations, and to find security only in what I can see and touch.
As communities, always being motivated by fear can also determine our course. Fear causes us to keep conflict under the surface, and to avoid asking questions that might reveal even deeper disagreements. Fear keeps us at a distance from one another, avoiding discomfort and accountability. Fear separates, alienates and isolates. Fear leads to closed hearts, minds and doors.
On the other hand, faith helps us move forward from a posture of trust, believing that God will provide as we risk even our own security to follow divine stirrings. Faith often leads us down paths that are counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, and counter-comfort. Faith distributes power and opens the way for conversation. It enables us to lean into our discomfort instead of avoiding it. Faith creates new pathways instead of insisting on traveling the same worn ones. Faith fosters imagination, openness and courage.
I am learning that we are constantly living between fear and faith. As spiritual beings, and as those who confess to be disciples of Jesus, we are constantly pulled in both directions. Moving by faith is mixed with the fear that we will regret the outcome. As the pastor of a new faith community, my hope is that we will move more by faith than fear, and that we will be honest about the tension. In our church, this looks like welcoming individuals to share their own celebrations and concerns during worship each week. It looks like starting and ending discussions that reveal more questions than concrete answers. It looks like making space to be honest with one another. It looks like dealing with conflict as it arises through open dialogue. It looks like ministry teams that gather to plan and dream the next steps in our life together. It also looks like trying out new ideas, failing and learning as we go.