We just got back from three days in Indiana at the North Central Wee Kirk Conference. (Wee kirk means “small church,” and it’s a conference for leaders of small churches.) I’ll probably write more posts about it over the next few days, but I wanted to write down a few thoughts while they’re still fresh in my mind – and before I slide back into the usual routine and forget them.
When we first got there, Tuesday evening, I wasn’t exactly in much mood for the opening worship service. I was tired from driving six hours, and wondering how a conference less than 48 hours long (from Tuesday evening to Thursday noon) could really make much difference spiritually. I remember previous Wee Kirk conferences when the worship leader’s manner of urging people to enter fully into worship felt – to me – more like scolding me for not being emotional enough in my worship.
I was very grateful when this year’s worship leader told us we didn’t have to sing all the words of the songs if we came upon some that just didn’t fit with where we were at the time – other people with us would be singing and together we would all be praising God. I wish someone like her had been leading worship those other years at Wee Kirk, and at some other times in my past when words that were supposed to describe my joy in Jesus simply stuck in my throat.
By this morning, the songs of praise flowed easily. Was it the wonderfully gifted speakers who preached to us, four times over the course of less than two days? Was it that they were able to preach for considerably longer than the twenty minutes that seems to be the expectation at many Presbyterian churches, limiting how deeply they can develop the message they are bringing to us?
Was it the total amount of time devoted to thinking about God, worshiping God, enjoying fellowship with other Christians? Was it simply being away from the usual daily routine for three days? Was it the prayers of many people, during the months of preparation for the conference as well as during the conference itself?
I think either of the two plenary speakers would have said that any of those things could have played a part, but first and foremost it was the sovereign grace of God. The theme of the conference was supposed to be “The Joy of the Hurting Church” from Philippians 1. Certainly the speakers talked about that, but to me the repeated emphasis was on the sovereign grace of God. (The joy of the Christian, whether in times of hurt or otherwise, is ultimately grounded in that truth.)
I was somewhat disappointed that there was not more in the way of practical ideas for ministering in small churches, as there were in previous Wee Kirk conferences we attended. (The last one we went to, before this year, was in 2004.) But perhaps what I needed more this year was not about what I could do in the church, but what God wants to do in me.
Some of the phrases running through my mind, which I will try to address in the next few blog posts, are these:
- getting “blown about” by God’s Spirit (based on John 3:8)
- it’s not good to learn truth faster than you can live it
- seeing how God works in unexpected ways and by unexpected means