Sunday, February 17, 2019
For the past 30 years my wife and I have had the pleasure and honor to pastor the flock of Living Word Chapel in the township of Forest. We concluded this loving assignment as of December 31, 2018 and we began a new adventure the very next day. At the age of 65 and 62, we believed it was time to re-FIRE and not retire.
We are blessed with good health, a deep and abiding love for God, and a rich desire to serve and love people outside the “brick and mortar” of the church building. With our daughter and son-in-law taking our place as senior leaders of our church, my wife Ginger and I are embarking on what we’ve passionately called, “a mission to America.”
Researchers tell us that the fastest growing demographic of religious participants are the folks coming to be known as “none of the above.” They are an amalgamation of some running away from organized religion, some (right or wrong) who’ve lost confidence in clergy, and some who are outright weary of anything resembling the previous two categories.
I’m convinced that there remains a latent and vital spirituality in the hearts of these dear sheep…who seem to me to resemble the “one” lamb who has drifted away from the 99. I’m deeply committed to the discovery of a way to search and find these sheep without giving them any more reasons to run or hide. When I read the gospels, I see Jesus walking dusty paths in search of these folks who’ve I’ve come to call, “spiritual refugees.” Our new life is taking us on similar dusty paths in search of the “one.”
One of the beautiful (and somewhat unexpected) side effects of this new adventure has been the renewal of our “first love” passion (Revelation 2:4). Life outside the security of our previous normal routines has pressed us to pray with a renewed faith and a love with a reckless joy.
American Christianity has not failed…it is simply awaiting our reach for its most basic tenants; laying down our lives for others, faith to move mountains, RISK, and most of all, sacrificial love. The life of Jesus Christ beckons us forward and upward. While we will always need the beauty of our sanctuaries, I am also convinced that we must walk out FROM our places of worship and lovingly learn to see the majority of America’s population who have either fled our churches or they have simply never entered the doors. And when we truly see them, we must also genuinely learn to LISTEN and LOVE them…right where they are, without attempting to strong-arm them back into our churches.
Perhaps our authentic love is all they’ve ever wanted…and maybe, just maybe, love will change US more than it will ever change “them.”