Jim Crooks : I Know Where I Have Come From….But What Now?
I was recently reminded of an incident in Genesis 16:7-10 when Hagar, the concubine of Abram was cast out the household by Sarai after she became pregnant by Abram. She was found by the angel of the Lord as she wandered, and he asked her two questions: ‘where have you come from and where are you going?’ She is in the wilderness, a metaphor for the spiritual life.
I have always felt that the Lord is ‘a God of seeing’ (Genesis 16:13) and have known not only that He watches over me, but He has also given guidance throughout life. Sometimes the precise detail can be missing of what is to happen next, but He fills in the detail as we move in obedience to Him. So, life after being Pastor of TCF is varied and full. I know where I have come from and, by God’s grace, I know something of the direction for life in the short and medium term.
One area of continuity in my ministry interests is the Year Round Mentoring (YRM) of Pastors through the European Leadership Forum (ELF). This annual programme is for Pastors seeking support for soul care for themselves and also for someone to walk beside them through transition or some difficulty or church circumstances. Part of the programme is to equip them also as leaders. So, each year, with a new group of Pastors we devise a programme around their personal or church needs and also provide one-to- one mentoring. Our group has seen changes over the years and we now include some African Pastors. It is a delight to see them respond to the support and to be sustained through difficult circumstances and these can include church splits, doctrinal differences, financial misappropriation, infertility, singleness, family fracturing. Working at this level – below the radar unseen by all except the individuals – is a wonderful way to serve the ‘audience of One’. We have just finished the programme for 20/21 and begun a new group for 21/22.
A similar ministry is my work with Living Leadership (LL). The focus is on one-to-one mentoring of UK-based Pastors and I am currently the only Associate working in Scotland. I am asked to provide support to individuals and also to church leadership teams. Just now I have three areas of support – one to a church leadership team for revitalisation, one to an interim Pastor on church revitalisation and a third to a Pastor in terms of soul care and balancing life and ministry. On this area I am more theoretician than an exemplar! LL provides a real focus for me and with a monthly Associates meeting on Zoom and a twice monthly Network meeting on Zoom (around 100 Pastors) I have quickly felt a real sense of belonging. But it is only now getting underway in Scotland and I hope to be developing Pastoral Refreshment days and a good Network of Scottish Pastors who will benefit from this ministry.
I am also involved in the Lausanne Movement and I have been running an Impact Group for Scotland ahead of a ‘Lausanne Conversation’ in November of this year (in Poland). This has kept me in touch with a group of Pastors and leaders of organisations and we have had constructive conversation around a number of issues of common interest and concern for Christians in Scotland and as we continue to be part of the wider community of Europe (not politically of course but we have many aspects of common culture and heritage which have shaped us). I have provided eight reports thus far for the Lausanne organising committee, but it has also meant that I am getting to see how Christianity and Evangelicalism is doing within the UK and also within Europe.
A further development is still happening as I write. I was approached by the Board of a Christian organisation who are concerned for their managers and staff to have access to independent pastoral care, and I have been asked if I would provide this on a when needed basis. The scheme would be by self-referral, but I would intend to get to know folks so that there is a relationship on which to build.
I have also been asked to undertake a teaching weekend for church leaders in Iceland and I will be going there during the summer. A number of years ago I worked with two churches there and looked at a potential way forward for them to cooperate more closely and also work strategically. It will be interesting to see if the Lord leads any further with these churches but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
My preaching and teaching are less than it was in TCF but I am still kept quite busy with supporting other churches. I have dates for June, July and August as I look ahead and as folks return to face-to-face preaching and teaching. It has been quite unusual to have recorded messages over these past few months, but it has meant that I have been able to support churches quite far afield – including Cardiff! I’m still not sure about preaching and teaching in TCF as it is very hard to transition from a focussed pastoral teaching ministry to one-off sessions. I’m still thinking about that – but I certainly don’t want to be creating any impression about still having any formal role in TCF.
Also, by God’s grace, I have been able to continue with one-to-one support for a number of folks in TCF – most of whom have just become friends on a journey of mutual discipleship. That was always, and remains, an area of service which I am delighted to continue, albeit that it is entirely on an individual basis.
On the family front, Laura is still without a job and this has been quite hard for her – and for us – as we try to see God’s way ahead for her and especially about the horses and their considerable upkeep! We try to keep things simple and follow the Lord’s leading and Laura has been a wonderful encouragement to me over the four years (nearly) of our marriage.
We haven’t been able to visit Faroe yet because although it is on the UK ‘green list’ there are still no flights that we can get (well except for a complicated journey through Denmark but it is not on the UK green list anyway). We long to see the family and to hold them and especially wee Ester Elisabet who was 1 year old past on 31 March. This is a very real issue of sorrow to us, but the Lord knows our situation.
I continue to live by faith and the Lord has provided me with an occupational pension and we will continue to serve God as long as He wants to use us. In looking again at Hagar’s circumstances, we can see that God takes action to meet her need, He is always aware of her circumstances: Beer-lahai-roi. ‘You are a God of seeing for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”’(16:13).