I can’t believe that it is just about a year since I joined you in Westlake. Its been an incredible year for me in so many ways. As part of the elders report I want to quickly give a personal reflection on that year
From my perspective as a new Pastor coming to Westlake I think this past year has been about 4 main things:
This first year for me personally as pastor of Westlake has been very much been about orientation. What I mean by that is trying to understand Westlake, its culture and ways of doing things and how I fit into that and what the expectations of me are. I have had orientate myself to a new country and culture, to another form of church government, to a different kind of congregation from that which I have led in the past. I suppose another way of putting it would be to say that this first year has been about finding my feet as pastor of a multicultural congregation in Switzerland.
I have found that process simultaneously to be both tremendously challenging and enjoyable. I want to thank you for your patience with me as I have been going through this orientation process and I am sure at time getting things wrong. I feel I have better understanding of Westlake now and my role as pastor, but I also realise I have lot still to learn.
The second word I would use to summarise my first year would be consolidation. I think it would be fair to say that Westlake has been through a difficult couple of years as a church. As a result, we lost some people and maybe also lost some confidence in ourselves as a church. With Brannon , Steve Wright and Louise and Jeremy Burrows all leaving over the course of the last year we lost some committed and gifted people from key positions in the church and some of our ministries could easily have suffered as a result. As a consequence of all that I have felt very much that this last year for us has had to be to a degree about consolidation, that is getting Westlake back on an even keel. I have tried to do something that sounds very boring, but which I believe was essential for us as a church, and that is to simply bring an air of normality back to church life. Consolidation is defined in the dictionary as a process of making something more solid, stronger, effective and unified. I think that is what we are as a congregation at the end of this church year as compared to last year.
I think overall the most significant thing we have done as a church over the last year has been to start a process of clarification about why we exist as a church through our REVisoning Process. We’ve held listening meetings, studied Biblical teaching on the church, had discussions and prayed as we have sought to clarify our mission. Through this process we have clarified or perhaps better affirmed that our fundamental calling as a church is to make disciples and clarified what we mean by being a lifelong follower of Jesus. Our challenge now is to hone some of our language, and create a culture where discipleship is firmly embedded and develop a strategy that will enable us to people to become disciples and grow as disciples. We are going to be hearing a lot about BELIEVING, BECOMING, BELONGING AND BUILDING in the future.
I have no doubt that as we follow through on these clarifications, we have made about our mission that it will mean for all us coming out of our comfort zones in certain areas. We will inevitably over the next year face change and change inevitably is uncomfortable and at times can easily provoke conflict. That is why have had to do this hard work on clarification so that any change we come to introduce will be to help us fulfil our mission not be simply change for change’s sake, change to keep up with the latest fad in church life or change to keep some of us happy.
If I can I would flag up one area where we need to address and which in all probability will require some change, that is in the area of evangelism. At the moment we don’t have a systematic plan to help investigate Jesus and that is something its vital we develop if we are to be a church that makes disciples, otherwise we will only be paying lip service to our mission.
The final word that I would use to sum up my first year as pastor at Westlake is appreciation. I had been out of direct local church leadership for a little while before coming to be pastor here and I must say that coming back into the local church has given me a new appreciation for it. Its so easy to allow problems and challenges to blind us to the tremendous things that a local church does. I have looked on in awe this year as God has used us a church to bring people to faith in him, to bring comfort and healing into people’s lives, to reenergise and reinvigorate people’s faith, to help people in need in deeply practical ways, to welcome people and help them face new challenges. We can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved as a church and at the same time filled with humility as acknowledge that it is God who has worked through us to achieve these things.
Whenever I think about what we do as a church it also makes me appreciate our volunteers who serve the Lord so consistently and sacrificially at Westlake. I can honestly say that I have never encountered a more committed, gifted and hard-working group of people than those who serve at Westlake. We would not make the impact we do for the Kingdom of God without what you do and just importantly the way you do it. So, I want to thank every single volunteer for all you have done over the last year.
I have experienced conflict in church leaderships and tried to help congregations whose leadership were deeply divided. That’s why if I am talking about appreciation, I must express my appreciation for our church leadership. There are the staff, it has been such a joy for me to work alongside Carolina, Elaine and Tommy and Meghan. You get to see what they do upfront at events in the church I also get to see all the hard work of preparation they put in behind the scenes and the unsung work they do befriending, caring for and helping so many people. I once wrote an essay about church administration talking about using people’s skills and expertise from their working life to help develop the church and make sure its run efficiently. The lecturer wrote at the bottom of that essay that the reality is that many churches struggle to find leaders with professional skills. That has certainly not been my experience and that’s why I have so appreciated the EB and all that they do so professionally in helping to ensure the church is run well and smoothly. Finally, I need to say publicly how much I appreciate Alfredo, Cathy and Claire our elders and Olu who was an elder for part of the year. I have appreciated their support, their wisdom, their spiritual maturity and their encouragement. We need to find some additional people to share the load, but I want to tell you as a congregation that your elders are doing a good job.
In conclusion I want to say how much I appreciate the privilege you give me in being the pastor at Westlake. You have welcomed Ann and I and made us feel at home and so made the difficult transition from home in Scotland to our new home here easier. You have prayed for, encouraged, and been patient with me with as your pastor. I am so grateful for the opportunity you have give me to serve the Lord at Westlake as pastor. I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing than being the pastor of this church at this time.