My brother and I grew up racing motocross. My father raced motocross. His father rode dirt bikes in the mountains of West Virginia. I’m convinced that I was genetically predisposed to the draw of motorcycles. It’s “in the blood” as they say. As family, my brother certainly hasn’t escaped the “bite” and every Spring he calls me saying, “The bike is ready! Where can we ride?” Then we plot out our summer adventures.
This Spring I was feeding the “itch” by secretly watching Nitro Circus in my office when I heard a tiny voice behind me, “Dad, what’s that?” I was so intent on the show, the motorcycles jumping, racing and flipping that I had failed to notice Abigail, one of my 4 daughters slip into the room. “Oh, no!” said the voice in my head, “What have I done?” My daughters, the oldest of whom is 9, have two 50cc Yamaha dirt bikes in the garage. If those were the guns, Nitro Circus would inspire them to pull the trigger.
In the 15 seconds it took me to explain the show to Abigail, the rest of my daughters had piled into the room to watch as well. It took less than a minute before my 2 year old, Eowyn, was mimicking the chorus, “I do dat? I do dat?” Yeah, that’s exactly what I want, my two year old daughter doing back flips on her tricycle… while on fire.
Nitro circus is all about inspiration. The risks are great and every participant knows it. When a new challenge is presented there’s generally at least one person who resists committing to the charge. The fear of the risk overpowers the desire to commit to the new experience. That’s when other Nitro Circus team members step in to motivate the fear-stricken individual into action. During one particular event a team member was afraid to commit to a stunt. His friends came around him and pushed him to make the attempt, which he ultimately did. By the end of the segment I was caught off-guard. What moved me wasn’t the stunt, although it was impressive. It was the man’s response to completing the task he feared. The man who struggled to commit, who needed convinced, who shuddered at the thought of jumping into the wild unknown and almost missed the experience, cried. He teared up and with glassy eyes thanked his friends for pushing him to jump. His fear had almost cost him the joy of the experience.
When a new pastor comes into a church, it is not so unlike Nitro Circus. Many times, the church family stands at the edge of the unknown and contemplates the risks of what could be. They feel as if they’re standing at the base of a ramp pointed into the unforeseeable. That is incredibly scary. The question is, how will the church respond to that fear?
My father is a pastor. My grandfather is a pastor and I serve on a team of 12 pastors. I’ve seen some church families embrace the “leap,” and I’ve seen others reject it. The common trend is that those who are accepting of the unknown also accept the incoming pastor, who stands as a symbol of the unknown. Those who reject the unknown, reject the incoming pastor.
In the United Methodist Church, pastors are appointed by the Bishop and local churches know that they have little say in the matter of who it is that they receive. A local church could attempt to stop an appointment from happening, but often that approach is unproductive. Upon my appointment to Trinity Lindsey, I’ve heard this statement more than once, “We know that you’re the right pastor for our church because we’ve prayed for it so intently.” That declaration has been supported by arrangements of flowers being delivered to our home, hand written welcome letters in our mailbox and emails extending help with the transition in. All of this has come before anyone has had a chance to really get to know me or my family. I can’t even remember the last time I was given flowers! Yet there they sat, beautiful and aromatic, filling my home with hopeful anticipation.
All of these things, the flowers, the letters and the emails, stand in opposition to fear. These are the signs of a faithful people. They are the signs of those who believe God is active in their lives and moves powerfully through their prayers. They are the signs of a people standing at the base of a ramp that’s pointed into the unknown, but looking forward to the leap.
Pastors expect to inspire others because they have been inspired so greatly by God. What pastors don’t expect is to be inspired by a church they haven’t even started to serve. Trinity Lindsey has done that for me. I know that it will not be the last time. I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us beyond the leap. Thank you for the warm welcome, your faithfulness, and your trust in God despite the unknown.