Saturday, January 24, 2009

Waiting for the Ax to Fall

It's been nearly three months on the job as the Associate and so far, so good. It has been a pleasant experience.

At least it should be.

You see, at times old tapes play in my mind. If I make a mistake, I keep waiting for someone to chew me out, to yell at me for crossing some line or stepping on someone's toes.

I think this because it has happened before and the repeated experiences left me feeling at times like a scared puppy.

But nothing like this has happened at the church so far. Part of that comes from knowing more about myself. In the past, I would charge in and do something, which would then end up pissing people off because I had crossed some invisible boundary that I didn't know existed. I think it was that Aspie trait of lack of common sense that would get me in trouble. But lately, I've been more willing to take my time and ask people questions before just doing something.

But the other half might just be finding grace in church. The other day I grumbled about forgetting something, beating myself up for being so stupid. "That's okay," the Senior Pastor said. "We're all human."

It's funny that sometimes the place where we find the least grace is in church. But in many of my experiences over the years, church is the last place where one can be human and live under grace. So, it was shocking to hear grace being bestowed on a church.

That doesn't mean that I don't deal with fear. But maybe over time, I can trust that there is grace, both here and in heaven.

Maintenance V. Mission (the Rerun)

Someone at church was interested in the following blog post from late July of 2008, so I decided to post it again.

I stumbled upon this blog post and thought to share it. I see a lot of this happening in some churches I know. I will blog more about this later.

1. In measuring its effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, “How many visitors have we attracted?” The missional congregation asks, “How many members have we sent?”

2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, “If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won’t do it.” The missional congregation says, “If this will help us bless and touch someone outside of our faith community, we will take the risk and do it.”

3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, “How will this affect me?” The majority of members in the missional congregation ask, “Will this help align our activities around the missio dei — the mission of God?”

4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our past.” The missional congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our future.”

5. The pastor in the maintenance congregation says to the newcomer, “I’d like to introduce you to some of our members.” In the missional congregation the members say, “We’d like to introduce you to our pastor.”

6. When confronted with a legitimate pastoral concern, the pastor in the maintenance congregation asks, “How can I meet this need?” The pastor in the missional congregation asks, “How can we meet this need?”

7. The maintenance congregation seeks to avoid conflict at any cost (but rarely succeeds). The missional congregation understands that conflict is the price of progress, and is willing to pay the price. It understands that it cannot take everyone with it. This causes some grief, but it does not keep it from doing what needs to be done.

8. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running smoothly. The leadership style in a missional congregation is primarily transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the map in order to bring the vision into reality.

9. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The missional congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.

10. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks, “How many Christians, who aren’t currently members, live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?” The missional congregation asks, “How many unreached people groups live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?”

11. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, “How can we get these people to come to our church?” The missional congregation asks, “How can we go and be engaged with these people?”

12. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their congregation. The missional congregation thinks about how to plant new missional communities to extend the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Life As A Puzzle

Last night, as I was sitting in a church board meeting, the senior pastor noted that most of us tend to think that life is linear- we make progress as we go along. But he thinks that in the church, life is more like a mosaic, like pieces coming together to form something.

As I thought about that, I started to think about my own life and my having Aspergers. Immediately what came to mind was a puzzle, or more exactly, the symbol used for Autism Awareness: ribbon that is also a puzzle of differing colors.

In some ways, such a symbol makes sense. For those who care for someone with an autistic-related disorder and even for the person themselves, life can be a puzzle. Things don't make sense. What we expect is not what happens.

For me, life has been a puzzle, especially before my diagnosis. I couldn't understand why life didn't work the way it was "supposed" to. I didn't understand why it was so hard to make friends or date or keep a job. Even after being diagnosed, there are still questions- more puzzles.

But I wonder if that's the way life is. Going back to the church, it can be so easy to expect that a church must progress along a line: do this and this will happen. Don't do this, this will happen and so on. But what if church life is actually a puzzle where we place on piece at a time and see if it fits. And then we try another piece. And another. And so on. Step by step, faith by faith.

And maybe that's it. Life as a mosaic or puzzle means that we have to have faith that it will work out. It means that in time the picture will become clear. It means we can step back and see the whole journey, all the missteps and successes and see it all.

Maybe what having Aspergers has taught me so far is that life is a puzzle. There will be things that don't make sense now, but maybe in time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Autism Sunday

I happen to stumble accross this, but I guess there is a Sunday where churches can lift up those who have an Autism-related disorder. I am curious if there any churches or communities that have done something to help faith communities be mindful of those of us who have an autism spectrum disorder.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Aspergers in the Work-a-day World

Now that I know that I have Aspergers, a lot of questions have some answers.

My work history has been...well, interesting. It's not that I've been terrible, but it took until I was almost 40 to have a stable worklife. A lot that I can attribute to having Aspergers.

It manifested itself in my roles in the church, and in secular jobs. I floundered in jobs where there wasn't clear objectives or where the answer to a question had to be "how high?" instead of acutally answering the question.

I am reminded of this in reading the blog of a fellow aspie who as told that their job prospects aren't good.

In some cases there are limitations. I don't think I could ever be a Senior Pastor because it is too people intensive and way too political, something we Aspies aren't good at. But just because I'm limited doesn't mean that it's impossible. I think knowing is half the battle. Knowing that you have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder means that you have the power of knowledge instead of simply stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what is wrong with you.

The thing is, there are employers that are willing to make accomdations for people with Autism. We aren't doomed. It's not easy, but we are not doomed.

At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Look

So, you've noticed I've changed the look of the blog. It was time. The tagline has changed as well: "Not like the other pastors..."

What does that mean? Well, primarily it means that I am probably one of the few pastors that is on the autistic spectrum for one. And that I'm a slightly conservative (but definitely not fundamentalist) pastor in a politically liberal denomination. So, I am one odd duck.

And I happen to like that.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the digs.