Go to work in the morning and stick to it until evening without watching the clock.
You never know from moment to moment how your work will turn out in the end.
Ecclesiastes 11:6 The Message
If I have learned anything during my studies at Bethel Seminary, it is that predicting the results of our work is impossible. As I began my studies three and a half years ago, I had a solid idea of what my dissertation would be about. More than that, I was confident that I knew what I would find. I was sure I knew how my work would turn out in the end. I should have listened to the writer of Ecclesiastes.
Not only did my project change during the course of my studies, it has been impacted by events in the wider world that I never could have anticipated. I alluded to this during last Sunday’s sermon, but the past few months have been a time of wandering for me. I am not lost, but I have struggled to know what steps to take next.
Several things have impacted timing of my research, which I had anticipated completing during July and August. It is nearing the end of September and I will be completing the focus groups this week here in Marshfield, and I still have one other congregation in which to complete my research. While there is still plenty of time before the deadlines set by the seminary, I have adjusted my personal deadlines on a monthly basis.
Simply put, gathering the information has been more time-consuming than I anticipated. This delay has caused a cascade which impacts not only my studies, but our church as well. I had hoped that by now I would have been able to compile the results of my studies. I anticipated having to have conversations with the elders and board about the implications of those results, which could impact the way in which we structure ourselves for ministry.
I chose the timing of this project for several reasons. One of which was the cycle of elections for leadership in the church. I had hoped to complete the research in time to share my observations and conclusions with church leaders in time to prayerfully consider any modifications to our leadership structures before we elect our leaders for 2016 and beyond.
While I have some preliminary results, I have been unable to share them with you for fear of impacting the research. I want your input during the focus groups to be as free from “contamination” from my research as possible. I am sure my research has impacted my preaching and teaching, but I have tried to be aware of that possibility and keep it to a minimum. Your experiences and opinions are important to me! I want to hear what you have to say, not what you think I want to hear!
None of this would be a problem, except our by-laws have term limits for some members of our leadership team. The by-laws stipulate that the Moderator and Vice-moderator may serve no more than two years before a mandatory year sabbatical from elected office. In the course of discussing nominations for 2016, the board decided that it was in the best interest of the church to ask the current leadership team to serve an additional year during this time of discernment. Greg and Angela agreed to serve for one more year as we prayerfully and intentionally discern how we structure ourselves for ministry in the years to come.
I want to thank all of our leaders for their willingness to serve our community of faith. And, I want to thank you for your support and insights as we seek to discern and follow God’s call on our lives, both as individuals and as a community of faith.