It Takes a Village to Grow a Church


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Imagine two moms sitting on a bench at a playground while they watch their children play. The child of the first mom asks if he can go play on the slide. His mom says yes and away he goes to play on the slide. A few minutes later he comes back and asks if he can play on the swing. His mom says yes and away he goes to play on the swing. Each time he wants to play on any piece of equipment in the playground he comes back to ask permission because that is what he has been trained to do.

When the second mom came to the playground with her daughter, she told her that she could play on any piece of equipment in the playground but she had to stay within the boundaries of the playground. So the daughter was allowed to be very creative in her playtime, going from swing to slide to merry-go-round and spending some time playing in the sand in between.

The first family has a command-and-control culture. This type of culture is common in families, corporations and churches. In the first family, power resides in a person and you have to keep coming back to that person to get permission for what you want to do. Fail to follow the system and you get your knuckles rapped. The embarrassment of that experience will prevent you from ever taking initiative again. So creativity is stifled.

The second family has a permission-giving culture. In the second family, boundaries are clearly defined and then people are encouraged to “play” within the boundaries. Power, resources and authority are given away to those who show initiative. Creativity is encouraged and people are given the freedom to take risks. A connection is maintained between leaders and followers, but it is not maintained by controlling power. Instead, the connection between leader and follower is maintained as the leader supports the follower and provides what is needed for “creative playtime” to happen.

Why is this important for us who are part of Walnut Grove Lutheran Church? Because we are living in a time when the old ways of command-and-control do not work anymore. Gone is the time when you could build a Lutheran church in a community and all the people with Germanic and Scandinavian heritage would flock to it. Now our neighbours are people from vastly varied backgrounds and most people, regardless of where they come from, are not looking for a church home. Our mission is still the same—to join with Jesus in seeking and saving the lost—but we need to become much more resourceful and creative in how we carry out that mission. And in order for creativity to blossom, it needs to have a permission-giving environment. More than that, the creativity and resourcefulness will need to come from those who are not in positions of leadership. It is going to take all of us God-gifted and Spirit-led people to have a Christ-like impact today and forever on the people of our community.

I realize that I am part of the problem. The patterns that I was exposed to as I grew up were predominately command-and-control and it became my original style of leadership. But I have since been exposed to permission giving cultures and they have allowed me to flourish. One of those permission giving cultures is here. During my time at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, I have had more freedom to try new things than I have ever had before and I really appreciate that! As I operate within the boundaries that God and the people of WGLC have given me, good things have happened, things that are so far beyond me that it is clear that God could be the only source. I pray that each person could have the same freedom to create, innovate and experience God-breathed results like I do. And I need each one of you with all of your God-given gifts and abilities to help me as we move together into a future where people who don’t want or believe in God fall in love with the One who is passionately in love with them.

Being a church is a team sport and it will take all of us working together to make a difference now and forever in the lives of the people of Langley, Surrey and Abbotsford. It takes a village to grow a church.

In Christ’s love,

Pastor James

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