The picture above is a crop of a picture I found here. This is from the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 series, and is a vision of a ubiquitous device for interacting with data. Such devices, ubiquitous in Gene Roddenberry’s world, are about to become a 2010 reality. Before I get into the correlations to ministry, I have to say that it is an amazing time to be alive if you are a tech geek. Microsoft, Apple, and the like, are creating some crazy technology. Every time I think about it, I am amazed at how my life is so different after the Xbox-360 and after the iPhone. OK, now back on track.
I am not an expert on futurists and can only name two (Gene Roddenberry & Arthur C. Clark), but I was one of those guys who would always be lured into a magazine cover of a futurist’s vision of things. My fascination comes from seeing beyond the ubiquitous. While I’ve never been a fan of his personality, I have always respected Steve Job’s ability to see life this way, which has resulted in some amazing products, the latest of which is the iPad. After a lot of thought, I decided that I will be one of the folks itching to own one of these. The deciding factor was being able to correlate the potential of the device (as championed by Jobs) with the casualness of such devices in Roddenberry’s visions. When the moment of intersection finally took place in my head, my decision was made. It takes critical mass and convergence of circumstances to achieve ubiquity, and I think the iPad embodies both.
Thrive Church will be 3 years old come mid-March, 2010. I have always maintained a tension in my ministry philosophy between size and mission. On the one hand, there is no escaping the fact that a church needs numerical growth in order to be able to fund mission. This is simple math, and I have been somewhat resistant to the truth of it. On the other hand, the vision God gave Angel and me for Thrive cannot be realized with quick-growth. “Relationship” is the theological root of that vision (with Jesus first, then with one another, then extending). Building strong relationships take time. There is no way to escape it. So, Angel and I have always prayed, “God, grow us as fast as we are able to nurture relationships.” The result, is good, solid, growth via relationship. I would not trade that for anything.
We are not perfect at relationships, but we are intentional about them. We have the same struggles as every other church regarding the drama of life with people. But, it hurts so much more when the struggles come, and it is so much more immensely wonderful during the great moments. And that is exactly the way I want it. I want to be hurt to the core when there is a relational problem. I want to be overjoyed in the innermost nooks and crannies of my heart when things are awesome. It’s how I know we’re legit. It’s how I know we’re tight.
But, here’s the thing: we are not living in God’s vision for Thrive – not yet. As amazing as this place is, it is but a hazed-over picture of who God wants us to be. We are still only preparing and planting. Right now, I feel as if we are some kind of oddity in the midst of reality – almost but not yet. But God’s given me a clear vision of what Thrive will look like, but sometimes the journey is frustrating – especially when we’ve chosen the hard way to get where we want to go.
Someone recently told me that during their church growth push, her church’s motto is “fake it until you make it” (if you’re reading this please know that I’m not mocking your church). That may work for other churches. Some people may think we should adopt that philosophy. But, you will never hear that sort of thing from me. We are always going to be honest about where we are on this journey – during the struggles and the triumphs. When critical mass comes, we’ll be able to look back and witness the amazing grace of God as he grew us to that place – which will, of course, be the beginning point of the next “thing” God wants to do through Thrive, because we’ll never “arrive”. But, we’ll be able to look back with amazement at how the things we will enjoy as ubiquitous to life at Thrive Church, we were once just out of reach.
In His grip!
Herb Halstead, Pastor