If you've been following my church life story, you know I've struggled with which church to go to and even whether to go to church or not. Over the course of the past two years or so, I've been up and down when it comes to church. A year and a half ago I found "Nexus" a progressive island in a sea of Christian conservatism. While Nexus hasn't been perfect, it has been a safe haven for me and my family, a nice compromise. Ty wants to go to church as a family and I can't stomach "traditional" churches. Nexus is enough "out of the box" that it works for me. A few weeks ago, Gregg (our pastor) announced that he has accepted a position that will move him to Cleveland, leaving Nexus without its founding pastor. The next few weeks and months will be "interesting" times. I'm both excited about the possibilities to do things differently and concerned about what will happen to Nexus.
Gregg's leaving will no doubt leave Nexus with some interesting challenges. Even had Gregg stayed, Nexus is at an extremely critical point in its development. Planting a church with zero people is a daunting task in any environment. Nexus started with basically Gregg and a handful of his neighbors (who live pretty far away, BTW). The denomination (UCC) gave Nexus financial support for the first three years. That support is on a sliding scale (downward) and really just helps cover the pastor's salary. The reality is you need a certain number of people to support a full time pastor and Nexus has always been up against it to make it to that number before the support of the UCC ran out. I think the biggest challenge to our existence is a simple one. Can we afford to keep paying a full time pastor? This is a survival issue. We've had our ups and downs as far as attendance goes. Recently, we had a bump up. We can only hope and pray that with Gregg leaving, we can keep up the momentum.
When a church loses a pastor (especially the founding pastor), the church has to decide what it's looking for in a replacement. One of the things that attracted me to Nexus was Gregg's humility and desire to see Nexus be about the community of believers rather than about a particular person (namely the pastor). I specifically recall Gregg saying that one mistake many churches make is they allow the pastor to become the face of the church and if the pastor goes away, the survival of the church is threatened. In my opinion, Gregg has done a good job of getting others involved and making sure Nexus was not just about Gregg Brekke. No matter how hard a pastor tries though there are going to be those who identify the identity of the church with the pastor. How many of those we have at Nexus remains to be seen. But, I think it'd be unrealistic to expect zero turnover with Gregg's departure. That's turnover we can ill afford at this point in time. We need to work hard to keep the momentum.
Another challenge we will face and opportunity we will have is what does the person who steps in for Gregg do? I knew I was in trouble when I read "Pagan Christianity?" Even before that I thought the role of the "pastor" in most churches is way overblown. It's puts an undue and impossible burden on the pastor and makes the people of the church dependent on someone else as their mediator to G-d. In fact, I much prefer to think of that person as "minister" which means servant than "pastor" which basically means shepherd or leader of sheep. However, I know not everyone shares my view. I see that person as more of a facilitator than a leader . I really don't think he/she should be the main focus. If Nexus ends up bringing in a person to "lead" us, I will definitely have a major problem with that. I actually enjoyed the days at Nexus when Sunday morning worship was less "standard" and was more unpredictable. But, I know that made some people who want to know what to expect every Sunday uncomfortable. Oh, well, you can't please all of the people all of the time.
So, we are living in "interesting" times.