Monthly Archives: March 2012

the wonderment of baptism

Every baptism service we have at Renovatus is extraordinary. We’ve baptized in a borrowed Baptist church, a hundred year-old elementary school auditorium, a shopping mall headed into foreclosure, the Atlantic, and now years later in a traditional sanctuary of our very own.

Let me be clear: the scenery isn’t what makes it extraordinary. The baptismal we most commonly use is a glorified bathtub wrapped in wood and on casters! The time slot isn’t what does it-we’ve baptized on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights. (Though last year we baptized by candlelight at Midnight on Easter and that actually was a pretty memorable timeslot!)

Pastor Jonathan baptized me at our first baptismal service over five years ago. Since then, each time I help baptismal candidates line up with their towels and their nervousness to wade in deeper with the Lord, my heart races a bit. I smile really big as they are brought before the congregation. I hold back the tears as they share a bit of their story with us, and then I cheer like no one’s business when they come up out of the water and hug their pastor.

The old being put to death and the new coming to life in such a clear, demonstrative way is nothing less than remarkable. The bodies are as unique as the stories embedded in them—diverse in age, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status. But the baptismal water is no respecter of persons; it is the great equalizer. Neither male nor female, slave nor free, rich nor poor—the old markers and old stories are now submerged into one story: the story of death and resurrection.

While we encourage people to sign up in advance and to bring friends and family to witness this mysterious sacrament, we also leave room for the Spirit to move in real time during service. If someone wants to be baptized on the spot, we are always ready & willing! Much like the eunuch in Acts 8 who said to Phillip, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” In other words, why not here? Why not now?

I certainly don’t want a lack of preparation on our part to hinder anyone from being baptized! That’s why we stock up each time on t-shirts and shorts and flip flops and underwear and ponytail holders and towels a plenty. (It’s a really awkward trip to Target, let me tell you!)

A missionary from our church who works in a part of the world that is closed to the gospel just shared with us about a friend of hers becoming a believer and the subsequent baptism in the bathtub that came with it. How beautiful is that?

Baptism is brave and weird and awkward and messy and breathtakingly beautiful.

It is the mystery of death and life summed up in single moment that changes everything.

From my vantage point, I can account for all the logistical elements that go into a baptismal service. There is nothing mystical about the mechanics of filling the pool or buying the shorts or folding the towels. But what I can’t see, what I cannot account for, is the enchantment of deeper and holier things that take place in the water. I cannot account for the sense of awe that lingers long after the moment is passed.

What I can testify to is the baptism by-proxy into wonderment I receive time and time again.

Advertisements

The Reluctant Pioneer

When I’m old and wise and have life stories to tell, I think I’ll call my memoir The Reluctant Pioneer.

Until then, I’ll just use it for a blog post.

I think I was born to pioneer.

(To be clear, not in the traditional “settler” or “frontier woman” way- I don’t know how to sew or ring a chicken or mill wheat or milk a cow or anything.  But in the ever-exploring, “building something new” kind of way.  Hopefully you see the distinction.)

And I say ‘reluctant’ because pioneering is not something that I seek out.  It’s not even something I particularly feel gifted in.  I am not the fearless, risk-taking type. By nature, I love order and predictability.  I love knowing what to expect and I like rules!  I also really hate to fail.

My idea of a pioneer is a daring dreamer who thrives on chance and defying odds.  No part of that sentence describes me.

Even so, despite my very precise picture of a pioneer, it seems I am eternally curious and like a good challenge more than I care to admit. Thus, I always seem to find myself somewhere new, working on something new– creating, establishing, shaping.

I’m not a true pioneer, but I apparently get pretty inspired by them and can’t seem to resist joining the team!  How else could I explain how I ended up as the Executive Pastor at Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC?!

My husband Nathan and I moved from Columbus, GA to Charlotte, NC in 2006.  We had some dear friends who we deeply believed in that felt called to plant a church. Years prior we promised that when that time came, we would pack our bags and follow them wherever they started this new work.  We began our plans to move with no idea where we’d live once we got here or what jobs we’d find to support ourselves, but we were up for the adventure.

Renovatus was officially commissioned that year and there was a lot to do.  Pastor Jonathan asked me to be his administrative assistant and run the church office on a part-time basis.  I was his first hire.

So, here we were a new church with 2 employees; the Lead Pastor who has never been a lead pastor before and an admin assistant who had never assisted before.  Oh, and a host of volunteer staff who also had no prior direct experience in the areas they were serving.  It was QUITE a learning curve.  It was a long season of pioneering on every front.  We were making it up as we went as best as we could.  As my friend Mat likes to say, we were building the boat while out at sea.  And that’s not the easiest way to build a boat, my friend!

Since then, every season of growth thereafter for the church has brought about new endeavors to pioneer.

Some we receive with joy and exuberance.  Others with more reluctance and discomfort than you can know.

In some we soar.  In others we flail about just trying to get off the ground.  In all of them we learn.  (As an aside: Sometimes I think learning is enough.  But in more than one of those occasions I’d maintain that learning is overrated!)

Planting a church, growing a church, being the church is non-stop pioneering.  Almost 6 years in, I’m still learning to embrace it.  I’m still learning to lean into the adventure and walk by faith.

Here are a few beautiful things I’ve reluctantly learned about pioneering along the way:

1.  Pioneering is quite the crucible!  New challenges are refining and developing.  Character is revealed.  Leaders and ideas emerge from unlikely places.

2.  Pioneering keeps you open.  Keeps you expectant.  Keeps you curious. Every idea is worth exploring and every option is entertained. Everything has potential and possibility when you are a pioneer.  In this way, pioneering can often foster humility & imagination.  It can also help keep cynicism & close-mindedness at bay.

3.  Pioneering keeps you dependent.  I once heard Dallas Willard speaking on the subject of dependence upon the Lord.  Someone attempted to challenge him and said, “We can’t always live at the end of our rope, though, right?”  His reply was simply, “I don’t know where else you’d live.”

Pioneering is the perfect means by which you reluctantly take up permanent residence at the end of your rope and hang on for dear Life.