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The End Line

And so it boils down to this (for this little mini-series anyway…obviously this is not exhaustive wisdom!)

Anyone who knows St Marks and also knows me will have spotted that I have the potential to fall into every single trap mentioned so far (and a good many others I have not gone into here). In fact, worse than that, I was initially identified as a potentially good vicar precisely because I was a highly charismatic individual who has the ability to cajole a crowd of people, sprinkle on some razzle-dazzle and build a fast, impressive, attractional church. And, full disclosure…I loved it!

Anyone who has had a 1-2-1 conversation with me will have experienced that it was slightly dull and awkward. People who have first experienced me from afar by watching on a stage, listening at a larger event, hearing me on youTube or listening on the radio are often comically unable to hide their disappointment on meeting me in real life!

And that’s the point. The stage is full of smoke and mirrors. The power of the dog-collar is demanded not earned. My ravenous ego is fed well when I am an idol worshipped from a distance, accountable to nobody and applauded by all.

The “system” allows this all too easily. In mega churches and movements for sure, but not exclusively. Humans are such that the applause of a handful of people can easily create a totally deluded sense of importance (watch Liz Truss / Nadine Dorris / Rees-Mogg / Suella Braverman speak for evidence that small groups of supporters can create out of control egos).

I don’t suppose for one moment that I get everything right, or that St Marks is a perfect community in which no shadows lurk. But I do know that we are trying. That I want to purposefully and consistently rid myself of ego-led-leading, that there are many ways in which we build our village which combat the dangers of super-star, power-hungry leadership and that the Mickey-taking at my expense is a glorious sign of health. (And if none of that works, I occasionally look at the view count on YouTube…that keeps me humble!)

And the thing which gives me confidence the most is that the metric I most care about is the end line. The end of the race when Jesus welcomes me and says “well done, good and faithful servant”. This welcome will not be enhanced because of sermon series artwork, congregation size, bank account stability, promotion achieved or anything else. This welcome is reserved for the ones who followed him whoever he leads, with humility and faithfulness, in the spotlight or in anonymity, in sickness and in health. That is all I really care about. Everything else will come and go. Everything else can be conjured up with filters, mirrors and masks. Faithful all the way to the end…that’s the win. And if I can walk the race course with some friends all the better.

Pray for me gang. Pray for those who have been hurt by leaders of church communities. Pray for our little village. Pray for our kids and the lessons they learn from us. Pray for those who watch the church from afar and who have a long list in their back-pocket of reasons the church can’t be trusted but who nevertheless would love the grace of Jesus. And pray that we might be a community of Faith, Hope and Love which does those things well, following the servant king wherever he leads.

About the author

Paul Oxley

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