Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dream jobs, calling, commitments and California

At the moment I am tempted to apply for a job in California. And not just because of the weather. It’s a company I admire. It would be a taxing job I would love. So, what’s stopping me?

I guess there’s the sense of duty and of calling. I have become involved in my church youth programme and leaving would create a hole there. Yes, it could be plugged and I’m not so deluded as to think I am irreplaceable. But if I’m serious about what I do there, then I have to be serious about staying there.

Then there’s my current work, which opened up for me while I was on redundancy. It offers me opportunities to make life better for people. It gives me the chance to gently influence. And I enjoy it, the work is often fun, my team is great, my managers are great (at least one of them reads this blog so I have to be nice – ha ha!).

What struck me as I walked to work (through the bitter non-Californian cold) was that this would be so much simpler if the job I’d seen in the Golden State was a church job. There would be no question, then, that I was being ‘called’. I could leave in clear conscience, knowing that I was serving God in another part of the world, therefore it must be the right thing to do.

Obviously I’m being facetious there. But I’ve seen and heard that enough in Christian circles. It’s the ultimate justification for quitting what you do where you are and going off and doing something else.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before my suspicions about serial church planters, who always seem to be upping sticks and leaving the ‘easy’ work of actually running a church to somebody else. In the quasi-evangelical / charismatic wing of the church, nobody ever seems to question the validity of this activity, even though in this country it is often about planting a particular brand of church in a place where that style of church hadn’t been present before.

There’s a street in Cardiff with a Starbucks, a Coffee #1, a Costa and a Café Nero on.

It’s all just coffee.

I know people will say, ‘Well, what about the church-planting Paul did in the book of Acts. It’s Biblical.’ To which I can only say, ‘Yeah, but a) we no longer live in the first century, b) there are churches already in most places, and c) you’re not the Apostle Paul. Sorry, you’re not.’

What church planting can do is exacerbate the factionalism that already blights the church scene, as yet another bunch of people pile in to a crowded space and try and establish a slightly different flavour of the same thing. Paul wasn’t big on factionalism. In fact, his tactic seemed to be to hunt out the pre-existing believers and join in with what they were doing, not just start from the ground up. But, hey, I could be wrong. I’ve only got a theology degree and fourteen different Bibles in the house.

This has turned into a slightly cynical commentary on church trends. But I do wonder if swapping cold and gloomy Cardiff for the sun-dappled hillsides of California would seem more acceptable to my churched friends if the job was in a church there.


  1. Hey my cynical grumpy old friend. As I'm embarking on a second church plant soon (does that count as serial?) I'm going to disagree with you.

    You don't have to be the apostle Paul to plant a church because others in the NT did it, starting churches continued long after the first century (so why not the 21st?) and there aren't enough churches because if there were there would (likely) be more Christians.

    Take north Shrewsbury, there were churches in existence but not enough to reach 20,000 people. There still aren't enough. Not all the churches had a similar enough theology (because it's not just coffee is it? and it's a little bit more than style) and those that did weren't all open to change or doing things differently to reach more people. But even if there were churches like ours already in existence, there are still thousands of people to reach. In our area we need more churches as well as more people in our churches. Being more than one doesn't mean we have to see each other as factions.

    We need both stayers and goers. Get it wrong and it causes pain, get it right and (I hope) releases faith, growth and kingdom advance.

    And why not go to California, the climate might benefit your better half and you will have a harder job moaning about the weather!

  2. Well, I'll give you some points there. Probably not enough churches to reach everybody, fair enough.

    On the other hand, someone did say to me that churches (church plants) aren't like coffee shops, because the coffee shops are full.

    Yes, more than one church planting escapade does make you a serial offender (joke). But on a serious note, I think there is a tendency to glamorise church planters more than church servers, and I think it can be the case (not always) that some people move on because they are bored rather than because they are called.

    That's an opinion that could well be wrong in your case. But it isn't wrong in every case.