This blog is a transcript from a testimony provided by Ben Smith at National Gathering 2015 in Colloroy NSW. For the audio recording that accompanies the text, click here to download.
It’s like I’ve been preparing for this moment my whole life. Year after year I’ve been hiding behind other leaders, waiting for the next one to come through thinking they were more prophetic, more important or perhaps more skilled than I. I was pushing back this nudge from the Spirit to go further, to pursue something more, to continue on the journey, all the while preaching to other people to take a risk and follow their calling. I was unsatisfied with my job, and was becoming dissatisfied with my life, the things that I was doing day to day. I was trying SO hard to shut God out, putting these walls up around me, and there came a point a couple of months ago that I even downloaded the Seek app on my phone and started to look for another job, I found one too. And then this happened. God smashed the window. God didn’t just break in, this felt like an armed robbery.
That morning I got dressed and sat down on the couch to put my shoes on, and looking up to Lana, my wife, with tears in my eyes for no real reason, and she asked me was I ok. I couldn’t respond. I didn’t know what the heck was going on in my mind and in my heart, yet she kinda did. She had seen it in me. So she said, “go for a drive and just spend the day listening”. So, the good husband that I am, I did. That day and the days following, I realised that my unhappiness was not caused by my not liking my job or perhaps some other issues that were going on. I knew that deep down I needed to step up to the plate, I needed to realise that I could lead, yet I was looking for someone else. That day though, I waved the white flag to the Spirit and said ‘ok you win’. Since then, the Moses story kept coming to me. “I’m not good enough God I can’t know about that”, but God says don’t worry that’s what your brother’s for, I’ll tell you and you can tell him. I’ve got some other ones for that. “But I can’t do it, I’m too young and too inexperienced, that person over there is better than I am”. But God says “Ben, I need you”. My wife, a Catholic who doesn’t talk with religious jargon even said to me “Ben, you’re fighting a calling”.
And so here I am today, with a dream. Not a plan, but a dream for the future. I’ve got ideas flowing from my brain, from my spirit, from my heart about where this church can go, and where the winds of the Spirit are blowing us. We can make a difference. We will make a difference. Folks, we aren’t dead yet. We are growing older every day, but we are also growing wiser and filling up our boots with experiences of the divine. I believe the Community of Christ will be around in 50 years because the Spirit will be with us. It will look different. I’m not talking about botox different; I’m talking about full-face transplant different. The body will be the same though. I see us in the streets with the vulnerable and mistreated, comforting the afflicted. I see us feeding the hungry both in spirit and in body. I see congregational life beaming with outreach opportunities. I imagine Community of Christ in prisons, hospitals, back packer hostels and drug recovery housing. I see vibrant camping ministries focused on the worth of all persons and reaching those who are not involved today. I see us having a voice at the table of the National Council of Churches in Australia, seeking peace and justice with other denominations. I see young pastors with retired counselors leading future disciples into mission. I see us holding more peace summits and workshops in our communities, living out our message to pursue peace and create shalom. I see us building solar farms, regenerating rivers and protesting against the use of fossil fuels. I sense that we are called to sit at the table with politicians and business leaders to help our world create communities full of justice and compassion. And who knows, we might have even finished the Tiona Visitors Centre by then.
Folks, these aren’t pipe dreams. These are not unreachable dreams. We can do this. The good Spirit is moving and we need to get on our bike. Christianity is only dead if we do not keep it alive, every day. If we let size, judgments, contradictions and politics get in the way of us leading the way of Christ and building the kingdom, then we might as well close up shop now, sell everything and give it all to the poor. We are called. You are called. I am called. Are you prepared for the consequences of this movement? I know that I wasn’t for a long time, and it wasn’t until I had the right pair of shoes on that I realised that I am called to lead. That it was my time, that I was ready to stand up. It’s time to do some mission. It’s time to be the church again and again, and continue this amazing movement, to continue the blessings that we have been given for the next generations. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and it’s our turn to be the next giants. A little while ago I saw someone’s t-shirt, and on the back it said ‘Be a tall poppy’. In Australia we kinda get afraid of being a leader for fear of being chopped down, and to this point I was like that “Oh stand up, but not too high”. Be that change in the community. Are you going to come with me? That’s my hope and I hope that there are many others like me that come after me. I can’t do it alone. Our calling is to be fishers of men and women, and children. Our call is to continue the Spirit, to reach out, and grasp our opportunity in our community to make a difference. My hope, my friends is that you’ll do it with me. I have hope. Things aren’t finished.