Gus can’t walk, Hal is blind. Alone they would each be what we sometime call “shut ins”. Octogenarians both, they don’t get around very easily on their own. But put them together, as they usually are, and those limitations don’t limit then all that much. Gus sits in his wheelchair and gives direction, Hal pushes the wheelchair and follows Gus’ lead and together they get to where they want to go.
The first time I thought about Gus and Hal was at the New Church Development Conference that our church hosted for the Presbyterian Church (USA) Church Growth ministry. The NCD pastors and team members in attendance were given an assignment to practice their observation and analysis skills in our community. Teams spread out over a twenty mile radius and then came back with reports on what they saw. As each team reported in, I scribbled notes. It was as if I had been lent the eyes of a church planter to see my own community.
But there was another tone to the church planter’s reports. Sitting in the midst of our recently refurbished church campus, most of them couldn’t help but feel wistful at the abundance of opportunities they could see, and the lack of resources that they had (especially compared to our “established” church). That is when it dawned on me. The church planters are Gus: they can see but they don’t have the means to get to the needs. The established churches, like my own are Hal: they have the energy to push, but can’t always see the need or opportunity. Alone, we don’t move. Together--Hal pushing Gus, Gus leading Hal--we travel into the midst of new places to do new things we could never do alone.
In other posts, I offered Gus and Hal and their collaborative partnership as an opportunity for pastors to ward off burnout by returning to a vision of leadership that is closer to the New Testament model of partnership. I have also suggested that the key for Gus and Hal (and Lewis and Clark) was to be humbly aware of our limitations, but focused on using our strengths. In this post, I want to suggest that we consider this model for whole congregations.
What would happen in our denomination if every church had a partner new church development? What if for every blind, but energized Hal, there was a visionary, but lame Gus? What would happen if each church saw the possibilities of this kind of collaborative partnership for both congregations? Even more, what would happen for the mission of Christ?