It seems a long time since I've done much serious thinking aloud here, which is rather sad - that being the main justification for the blog (because of course, being me I can't just enjoy it for its own sweet sake...)
But ever since last Saturday's excellent morning on Mission I've been considering the conundrum posed by one particular illustration.
It presented the church (the institutional reality) as a vortex into which all our time, talents and energies will be drawn if we are willing to collude...and contrasted this with the spaces round the edge where we might find ourselves more truly and fruitfully following Christ and introducing others to God's love.
It was a picture that made perfect sense to me, as I'm certain it does to you too.
The way that the administrivia can take over given half a chance, the energy one expends on keeping things going and on trying to develop new inititatives within the church family - these are familiar elements of daily life, things to be taken for granted.
And yet...And yet..
I've been living with the question that Dylan posed long ago ....
At the end of the story, where are the ninety-nine sheep? If one sheep is with the shepherd and ninety-nine aren't, who's really the stray?
If we're called to follow Jesus, shouldn't we do just that. And if Jesus is to be found "already gone ahead of us", the pioneer of salvation, what are we doing huddled within the walls?
I know these aren't new questions, for the church or for this blog...but what has been exercising me during this (unbloggably difficult) week is
"What if, instead of being here to act as a catalyst to develop the life of the church, I should instead be rejoicing that these two churches do not currently have a busy programme of groups, courses and events that demand my time and energy...What if the most fully obedient thing I could do right now would be to leave the churches as simply the focus for prayer and worship and spend nearly all of my time and energy with those on the outside?"
But, of course, if I don't have a strong praying community behind me I'm likely to fall flat on my face...And fostering that community, loving them, serving them is also part of what I'm called to do and be.
It's a recurring dilemma, and not one I'm likely to solve overnight. The only thing I can possibly do is pray.