Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Paying the Rent

One year ago today, the Bismark Tribune published the obituary of Norman Shawchuck.  Exposed to his writings in seminary, I nurse and revisit Leading the Congregation annually.  Embedded in his work is the idea of "Paying the Rent".

Norman Shawchuck
"Paying the Rent" can be described as doing the needed things, so you can do the wanted things.  I was exposed to Shawchuck by David Swink; the rent payer at Chilson Hills Baptist in Brighton, MI for over 20 years.  Swink reminded the students in his congregational leadership class at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, that there as many ways to pay the rent, as there are congregations.  I am grateful to Shawchuck and Swink for exposing me to the idea of "Paying the Rent".  Now in my fifth year of the pastorate at University Baptist Church (UBC) of East Lansing, MI, I have the opportunity to continue doing the things I need to do, while beginning to do the things I want to do.

At UBC, "Paying the Rent" has allowed me to learn more about a loving group of people.  I am expected to visit homes and hospital rooms.  I am expected to counsel couples interested in marriage.  I am expected to keep regular office hours at the church and promptly respond to emailed communication.  I am expected to eulogize loved-ones.  Punctuality for meetings and preparation for Sunday proclamation are included in "Paying the Rent".  Christ-centered commentary on current events should be at the ready, though isn't always required.  The longer I walk with the people, the more I see the facets of the gem that is "Paying the Rent" in the local church.  I also see the wisdom in Swink and Shawchuck's counsel.

Both advised me to also do things people don't expect of me but that are essential for church growth and transformation.  Leading change ensures there will still be a place to pay the rent in the future. Changing governance structure, suspending the constitution and taking risks in pursuing vision make some collectors of rental payments uncomfortable.  Shawchuck counseled, and Swink confirmed, that risks can be taken if the rent is being paid.
David Swink, second from left
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Because of Shawchuck and Swink, I am beginning to lean into efforts about which no one else is thinking.  Things I want to do are options because a habit of taking care of things I need to do has been formed.  If I had to look forward to five more years of only "Paying the Rent", I don't know that I would be excited. Inviting others to join me in meeting congregational needs while pursuing the vision to see all peoples of the world know, worship and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ is exciting.  There is discomfort; there are unanswered questions; fears assail.  The Holy Spirit has however equipped me to see the wisdom in "Paying the Rent" in the local congregation, so I can pursue vision with fewer points of resistance from the congregation.

One year ago, congregations gathered around the Bismark Tribune to remember Norman Shawchuck.  He was laid to rest on my 39th birthday.  As I mark midlife, Shawchuck's writing spurs me to determined effort in the place of despair and doubt.

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