Friday, March 12, 2010

Church Swap

Good Morning God,
I've been thinking about a three way kidney swap operation that happened recently, when the partners of three separate people needing a kidney transplant each gave a kidney to someone that they did not know so that their loved one could receive what they needed.
Its one thing to give one of your kidneys to your partner, it's another thing altogether to swap it for someone else's kidney - it costs the same in the long run, but there seems something more commercial and less altruistic about it somehow.. more of a business deal and less of a gift..
Yet what changed?
The three people who needed kidneys got them, the three people who were prepared to donate kidney's donated them - its was just who got whose that was mixed up!
It was, in many ways, a wonderful example of what can be achieved when we are prepared to redraw the box of me and mine to include thee and thine as part of the same problem and hence the same solution.
Which is what makes it such an important lesson for the Church and ministers today..
There is something profound, remarkable and awe-inspiring about the bond that can form between a minister and 'their' Church which is very similar to what can happen in a good marriage.  It provokes a longing to see the Church flourish, for the Word to be heard, for the joy of your presence and the wonder of your grace to fill the building and the minds and hearts of your people there. And the grief when this is prevented is just as deep, with most ministers being willing to give up almost anything, to sacrifice whatever is necessary to prevent 'their' Church from dying or to save it from being so 'sick'.
But what if the minister and the Church are not well matched to solve a particular problem?
What if the particular needs of a Church are not compatible with the gifts and graces of the minister?
Is the minister willing to swap time and effort? To donate their gifts and graces to save another Church instead whilst allowing some other, better matched minister, to do what needs to be done for 'their' Church?
Could they care enough to let go for a while.. to do whatever is needed?
Or is this thinking too far outside the box?
I don't think so, but I am increasingly saddened by the way in which 'ownership' of Churches in Methodism stifles Circuit ministry and prevents the sort of exchange of gifts and graces that really could enable all the Churches in a Circuit to flourish rather than die.
It takes a leap of faith to engage in a life-swap such as the three way Kidney Transplant, or maybe a three-way Church swap..
But such bold leaps of faith are what you call us to.
I suspect that one of the first real signs we will have of hope for the future is increasing collaboration in ministry, a determination of all ministers to go not only where we are sent, but where we are needed most out of love for the whole Church rather than 'our own' Churches.
Until that time comes, it is possible that a fear of failure and misplaced personal or denominational loyalty could kill us - simply because we will not think outside of the me and mine box - and allow ourselves to be reminded that the Church is YOUR body, and not ours to order anyway!



  1. "Is the minister willing to swap time and effort? To donate their gifts and graces to save another Church instead whilst allowing some other, better matched minister, to do what needs to be done for 'their' Church?"

    I do hope so- because it is never their church. I have seen it happen for the good, and I have seen ministers dying on their feet and being sucked dry by a situation that just required a move. Mismatches happen, I pray that we (all, as in those involved in Stationing, ministers and congregations) might have the grace to recognise and then to do something about it!

  2. One of the things I've learnt recently from meetings with the local "fraternity" of ministers of the various churches and denomonations represented in this town, is that each has their special gifts and talents which they bring to ministry. So I think this principle should work (where possible) between churches of different denominations also. In fact I often find these meetings more uplifting than those with our own staff team!

  3. for me the three-way kidney swap was a beautiful picture of how the body of Christ could be.


  4. angela, I can't find you on facebook. I am going to be in London from 26th March on (for about ten days) and would love to meet up with you.

    Could you email me seethroughfaith AT gmail DOT com

    or leave a message on my blog / facebook account.