The Traveling Companion: episode 1
I just started my next to last class for my D.Min at Perkins – Spiritual Leadership in Missional Churches. One of our assignments is to keep a journal during the 2 weeks of class. I decided to blog mine…
MONDAY, JUNE 14
When I came to Perkins I expected to have to recontextualize most of my course content. I felt good about the program but didn’t really expect that a mainstream denomination school would really understand my very not-mainstream church planting context. I was okay with that because I just didn’t imagine many advanced programs (yet) would be much different and the folks at Perkins seemed generally excited to have a missional church planter in the program. Last semester’s efforts at digging deeper into the new monasticism have been deeply transformational for me, Rachel and the Chappotins…nobody is able to know me and not experience what I’m experiencing!
And now I’m in a class with 6 other folks and a great professor exploring spiritual leadership in missional churches!!! I didn’t expect to find any classes this tailored to our experience in pioneering new mistakes!
Today was a good start. We began with a spiritual formation exercise in which we fleshed out a metaphor for leadership development using the image of a mountain range. I want to unpack what I drew.
But first, I also want to mention a quote that grabbed my attention. In an interview describing her departure from “professional ministry” Barbara Brown Taylor was asked if doubt played a role in her decision. She said that doubt caused her to poke and pry at her beliefs and issues of faith, and whenever something toppled over she knew that was an idol. Wow! Just last night, Rachel and I were talking about the misconception that doubt is the enemy of faith. I told her that I believe it is fear, not doubt, which is the true enemy of faith. Barbara Brown Taylor beautifully described why doubt is not the enemy.
But back to the mountain metaphor:
Early on as we attempted to lead other leaders up this mountain (a metaphor we’ve used explicitly) we tried to get people to pack appropriately. In reality all of us, myself very much included were trying to carry too much luggage up this steep terrain. Our packs were loaded to capacity and in addition to that 80 lbs many of us were also carrying an extra duffel bag, toiletry bag, computer bags, printer/fax/copier combos, kayaks, hairdryers, stuffed animals, televisions, an Xbox and a 30 volume leather bound commentary set from 1950.
Eventually as we tried to readjust our packs we began to realize that 1) we’d simply overpacked. Some stuff was good, we just couldn’t carry it all – we’d have to distribute the load amongst the group and share resources. Also 2) some stuff just didn’t translate well in the new terrain. It didn’t make sense to try to carry some of the heavy programming stuff that seemed so essential at base camp.
But trying to get everyone to be willing to let go of their teddy bears and comfort blankets was just too much. We simply had to get to climbing and then give people permission to drop their extra stuff along the trail when they got tired of carrying it.
When that point came, however, sadly some of our traveling companions decided they’d rather turn back to base camp rather than part with their extra gear. We’ve met other travelers along the path. We’ve met some along the way who grew too tired to continue and are even now sitting on a rock just off the path, too tired to continue but not sure they can find their way back down the mountain…or that they’d even like what they returned to if they did.
We’ve encountered some who decided they’d traveled far enough and erected a chapel with a nice view of the scenery where they could sing about mountain climbing…with their packs and hiking boots sitting in a neat pile outside.
Truth be told, that was a tempting option for a while. But we’re climbing again.
We catch glimpses of other hikers up ahead – some even seem to have balanced their loads. One of our greatest temptations now is to resist the urge to pick up the extra gear they’ve discarded.
We’re also meeting lonely hikers who are woefully under-equipped and facing great peril by traveling alone. We’re inviting them to experience the safety of climbing with a group. Some have had some bad experiences with mountain climbing expedition groups – some got stuck in the chapels we passed along the way and don’t want to do that again. But we find that as we share food and shelter they often begin to realize that a community on journey together can indeed be a great thing.
I don’t know what the top of this mountain will look like, I don’t even know what lies over the next ridge, I just know that I’m being drawn upward and the scenery is more amazing each morning.