On the sunday afternoon that we had our first Pivot 613 meeting, I made a bold statement that I had been working myself up to for 7 months prior to the soft launch. Here it is: You just walked into the no-fear zone.
Pivot 613 is a fearless church.
But in order to explain what I mean, I must take you back to the moment of inception when I first knew that God was asking me to be brave and help start this thing.
There are two friends of mine that have become quite close to me over the past year or so – Jim and Wendy – and they are part of the group of mad people that decided they were going to come on board with me and help start this thing that we now call Pivot 613. Jim and I in particular had been in each other’s orbit for a few years and last year we started to really talk about some of the ideas that we had for the church in general – not any particular church – to become more creative and such. I discovered that we had a passion for similar things where the church was concerned – a term best described by an american pastor called Bill Hybels as “Holy Discontent”. If you were to speak to us at the time, we honestly did not know that a couple of months later we would be talking about a church plant. Everything was fine and dandy until a conference in June last year
Wendy and I were sitting in a breakout session at a conference that the three of us had gone to in a session led by a gentleman called Steve Osmond and in the first 5 minutes of the presentation, he blew my mind. He drew a circle in the middle of the whiteboard at the front of the room and wrote the word EVENT in it. He described “Events” as “stuff that happens” in and around church communities. This is anything from new laws being passed legalizing gay marriage, to church leaders proposing building projects, to introducing new songs in worship, to… anything. And he shared with us a revelation that he had come to where the church is concerned with stuff that happens.
He said that churches react to events or stuff that happens generally in one of two ways. They either choose a path of fear that leads to judgement and condemnation OR they choose a path of love that leads to grace and mercy. He went on to assert that the path churches choose determines their language, their language determines their story and their story becomes their history.
It was not long after he shared this that people started interrupting his presentation – myself included – to ask or to brainstorm about ways to change your church. I believe that in that room, there was a sudden collective understanding of the stories and histories of our churches and faith communities. We all had an “aha” moment and we all desperately wanted to know what we could do to help change the trajectory of our churches. I do not know this for a fact, but the only thing I can do is infer what was really happening in the moment based on the spirited discussion that ensued. I would wager that we all suddenly realized that we were working in organizations that had made so many decisions that they had a history of fear and we all wanted to know how to change it. The more questions were asked and answers were suggested, the more spirited the debate came until Steve said something that struck me like a blow between my eyes.
He said that sometimes the church has chosen fear and judgement and condemnation so much that in spite of the best intentions and soaring rhetoric from the leaders in the pulpits, the church is so STUCK in her history as being fearful that it is better to stop putting new wine into old wineskins.
For those of you who are new to this Christianity thing and so do not get all the little innuendos we throw out from time to time, I would like to explain this one and why it was so profound for me when he said it. This particular phrase is taken from the teachings of Jesus when he was talking to his disciples about the kingdom he was establishing on this earth and helping them to understand that he had no intention of working with the established religious system. Before modern technologies of winemaking were invented, one of the ways you stored new wine you had made was in wineskins. Indeed, some winemakers still use wineskins. With time the wineskins grew old and dried out and after a while, you could not use them for the new wine you made because if you poured new wine into an old and shrivelled wineskin, it would burst and so you needed new wineskins, new containers, new methods, new thinking for the new wine that you are creating.
Jesus uses the understanding of winemaking in his day to illustrate what he was doing setting up this group of followers. And so just like Jesus striking out on his own to start a bold, fearless new expression of relationship with God not dependent on obedience to rules and regulations, Steve was basically challenging us in the room to think a little radically and realize that sometimes you have to stop stuffing new thinking – new wine – into a system that will not survive it – an old wineskin.
And right when he said that, it was like the clouds parted over my head and the sun shone right through. It was like… crap… I think God just spoke. I suddenly had an awesome perspective about the journey I had been on and I suddenly knew in my heart that God was calling me and that he would call other people to join me on the journey to plant a fearless church. You see, the opposite of fear is NOT courage. The bible actually proposes a different antidote to fear which is love and this is the reason that at this fearless movement – Pivot 613 – our slogan is “LOVE FIRST!”
And so emerging from that session, I knew that I could never go back! I had experienced my iphone moment! I had experienced my first kiss moment! I had experienced my 2-dollar a bucket ice-cream moment! A determination settled in my mind and I knew that God was calling me to be fearless! I knew that God was going to raise up a people that desire to be part of a fearless movement! A fearless church! And not only one church, but a whole GROUP of fearless churches! No longer will we automatically choosing a fear-based response to every little thing that happens programmed to do this out of our history of making the same choices over and over again. Instead, we choose to unlearn our indoctrination that makes our reaction seem natural. Instead we choose to be allergic to church as usual… business as usual. Rather, we choose love first and always and the path paved by grace and mercy.
Welcome to the no-fear zone!