Today’s blog post was written by Rev. Steven DeVries who serves a lead minister at North Holland Reformed. If you’d like more information about Ridder, please contact Rev. Andy Bossardet, RCA Coordinator for Equipping Thriving Congregations (email@example.com or 616-541-0906) )
4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-6
As a young pastor I hear a tone of optimism in these verses from Paul’s letter to Philippi. I hear that same optimism from my mentor who reminds me that the work of the church as a whole and the work of an individual minister will faithfully be carried to completion by Christ. I hear an optimistic perseverance to “keep on keeping on” as my farming relatives would say or “ramble on” as Led Zeppelin put it. The good work that extends beyond your personhood will be carried to completion, so pray with joy and retain your confidence.
But my short few years of pastoral ministry have tested my confidence and tempered by joy. I knew Christ would bring about completion, but I seemed to keep getting stuck. The church would get “stuck” and when that happened I immediately attributed it to my failed leadership: every impasse, miscommunication, strategic plan that stalls. Some of the small things fall by the way side, and some of the big projects had hidden pitfalls that I didn’t see coming. You see, my auto-pilot is a very loud inner critic.
Wiser and more seasoned leaders can see the problem with my thinking from a mile off as they have learned from their experiences. But I needed to process all of this, not just be told to think differently. Outside of the confines of seminary classrooms and case studies on paper I needed to learn to build the bridge as I crossed it. How could I grow in the midst of challenges that I was scarcely aware of? How could I find my own blind-spots?
Providentially, North Holland Reformed Church entered the Ridder Church Renewal process early in my tenure as pastor. I cannot say that everything our team learned and engaged caught like wildfire, in fact I’d say as a whole it’s a slow and steady burn (crockpot, not microwave). But it keeps moving. One of the key learning points for me was becoming more aware of where and how I got stuck and consequently figuring out how to back up and get unstuck. Failure is one of my great fears, and I had to grow in my capacity to engage those whom I had let down (and find a little grace for myself along the way!)
One of the phrases that stuck with me was, “transformation in the church starts with transformation in the lives of her leaders.” One of my growing edges in this was to continue to seek transformation in my own life. That’s not a recipe for never getting stuck again, but a process by which to work through our temporary failings, to differentiate ourselves from the people and situations that produce the most anxiety for us, and to still remain connected.
There’s a long way to go as we’re never really done on this side of the Second Advent. Ridder as a whole is designed to bring about transformation on a personal level to be brought authentically to a congregational level. For me, our first module of Ridder reestablished my joy, my confidence, and my hope that one faithful step at a time on our part is all that is needed to keep the good work that Christ is doing in us and in our churches towards completion.