This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Wait for the wind

Byron Pellecer is Associate Conference Minister for Western District Conference. This piece originally ran in the WDC Sprouts newsletter. 

Wait for the wind to blow and then allow this wind to take you.

While living in Florida, I often went to Biscayne Bay for a walk, meditation or to enjoy the sea breeze. I remember gazing at all kinds of boats navigating from one place to the other. But it was the sailing boats always captivated my attention.

I recall sharing my taste for this type of boats with the congregation that I pastored in South Florida. Over time, I managed to build a small collection of miniature sailing boats at both the church and my home office. When I found myself a bit lost and in need of realignment, I looked at my ‘replicas’ and my mind, heart and imagination began to sail in uncharted waters.

In“Nuts and Bolts of Church Revitalization,” Tom Cheyney asserts that according to research a high number of churches “have plateaued or are declining.” He considers seven pillars of church revitalization: Refocusing, re-visioning, renewal, reinvention, restoration, restart-re-potting and renovation.

Cheyney also says that “the Church is like a sailboat,” but my understanding is that most sailboats are powerless. In my opinion, regardless of size and age, any sailing boat without the wind and anchored at the port is just a pile of wood or a nice embellishment.

I wonder if we could engage in a conversation with an “old sailboat.” What stories and experiences would this boat share? Probably the adventures this vessel remembers the most are the rough seas it sailed through! I can only imagine what dreams a “new sailboat” might have!

If we could interview the “battered boat” from Matthew 14, what would it say about its experiences, fears and hopes? Would this ship emphasize the rough seas and how destructive the waves were or perhaps it would tell the story of Jesus and what happened when he came on board?

Because when Jesus arrived, even the wind changed.

I am sure that interviews like those could reveal a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be useful today. Maybe connecting the voices from our history with the many voices of our present might help us find a new way into the future, who knows?

If the Church, whether established or emerging, is like a sailboat, then the church will have to learn to depend on the power and direction of the Spirit. I am no expert in sailboats, or any other kind of boats for that matter, but I am under the impression that a sailboat is designed to harness the wind. Sometimes the waters it navigates might be stilled or untamed, but either way, ships are designed to sail waters.

Wait for the wind to blow, then allow this wind to take you.

It does not mean the church should “leave everything up to God” or chance. In contrast, the church should do its homework. Perhaps the church needs to consider the evolving realities and context of its neighbors and the type of ministry that the congregation has been called to or maybe the church needs to go over the relevance of its vision.

Church revitalization and growth needs the wind of the Holy Spirit to know the waters to which the church is called to sail. I cannot see church revitalization and growth separated from each other or as different “programs” of the church. Like discipleship and mission, they too should be considered part of church’s DNA.

I wonder if we need to revisit and challenge our understanding and practice of mission and missionaries. After all, change will always challenge one’s comfort zone.

Perhaps the church has been enticed to enter a “maintenance mode,” but rather the church should be confronted to engage the “sent mode.”

What kind of wind is the church hoping for? What sea is the church expecting to sail?

What does “sent” or “sailing” look like in the urban and rural settings? How does the church nurture children, youth and adults in becoming followers of Jesus? How does the church witness and invite others to faith in Jesus Christ? Undoubtedly, the areas to deal with might be countless.

I encourage our churches to continue wrestling with questions that will lead them into concrete actions.

And by the way, I still have some of my miniature sailing boats. From time to time, I still find myself gazing, hoping and waiting for God’s wind. And I pray not to miss this holy wind  when it comes (Acts 2).

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