After our community suffered from a terrible church-split 10 years ago, I had to learn quickly that it was going to be important for me and the church to be flexible. Before the split we had nearly 400 members with a very lively schedule and robust budget. After the split, for the next two years, we watched our attendance fall to below half and our budget get cut to about a quarter of what it was. Many who left were strong financial supporters. When I had become the pastor the church, I looked forward to the church experiencing a steadily increasing attendance, income and reputation. I counted on a healthy and dependable salary for as long as I stayed there. The split shook that to pieces. To pieces.
Within weeks I realized I had to let predictability and the security that comes with it go. Like my young daughter says, "Let it go like a balloon!" I did let it go, but only after it popped. Since then, my salary has gone up and down. No, not up except once. Usually down. Sometimes I don't get paid right away. Our offerings are sporadic. I've been on full time and part time and no time. The managers of the church know that I will allow my salary to be cut and even eliminated before the church goes under. I'm prepared to pastor the community without an income. I'll have to receive my income from my art and maybe some construction work. (I prefer art, Lord, if you don't mind.)
The unpredictability is reflected in the way we do church too. I never know what's going to happen during our worship time or even during the teaching time. Last week I had a lesson all prepared when something else came up: there's lots of tragedy happening right now with many people in our community and we thought it would be more appropriate to address that stuff. Yesterday, I taught a little, but a discussion got started that kept us occupied for the remainder of our time together.
Come to think of it, I like the unpredictability. I think I'd get bored otherwise. It adds a sense of adventure and risk that I think is more life-like, authentic and real. It allows us to do things as we see fit rather than doing things to meet the pre-planned goals. It allows us to be spontaneous, attentive and appreciative.
The pic is a self-portrait of my very spontaneous daughter Casile jumping off our coffee table.