As I write this, another church has announced it's closing in our city. Another, high profile, north american pastor has renounced his faith, after leaving his wife and his own, previously held, ideologies behind. It doesn't really affect me, and yet it does. Why do I do what I do? What is my motivation? It's good to take some time to challenge myself to answer these questions. It's hard to be willing to take the time to answer these questions. The tension always exists.
This month marks the last month of year thirteen, in which, it is a privilege to serve as the Lead Pastor of our church family. In fact, this is the nineteenth year of being on staff in some position or another. Most significantly, it's been thirty four years of learning what it means to follow Jesus. It's a good time to pause and to reflect.
"Every single day, each of us gets to answer a far more interesting question: What’s worth living for? If you could only pursue one thing, what would you craft a life around and do every day? And what if real sacrifice was involved… would you stick with it?" (p.187)
I picked up this book, The Happiness of Pursuit, in the airport before another flight to El Salvador. It was the 10th year in a row that we've sent a team to work together with a Salvadoran community, building homes, igniting hope, in all of us, as we untangle the brokenness we all share and often conceal.
So, why do we do it, why do I still do it? To answer Mr. Guillebeau's concluding question: because the one thing worth living for is to discover the evidence of the unfolding presence of the Kingdom of God and help others discover the fullness of His blessings and promises for their lives. Why do I do this the way that I do this? Because of the stories Jesus told and the life he lived:
"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Matthew 13:33)
Yeast is an unseen agent that works through the whole batch and transforms the dough. It takes constant, relentless effort coupled with a confident faith that God will bring His Kingdom to rise in all of its fullness. We knead, God handles the transformation. As Guillebeau put it: "The Path to the summit consists of repetitive movements, but it is precisely the arduousness of the task that makes the accomplishment and epic one." (p.139)
I firmly believe that the consistent commitment to know and serve the real needs of the people in our communities - not to build popularity, or to a style/model of church, but to the life Jesus - kneads the yeast of His Truth and Grace into our local and global world.
For this reason, I don't believe that the church is the hope of the world...Jesus is; Jesus is the one who is transforming people, families and communities and uniting them in the present and future hope that He brings. I don't believe in missions as a subset of "church"...but in mission as the primary function for those who follow Jesus. I don't even believe in the power of prayer...but in the power of God that invites me to communicate with Him and through which He helps me to understand His sovereign will, that is always at work through every circumstance. His Kingdom is The Active Ingredient at work and it will rise. On my part, there have been mistakes, times of lax effort and failed efforts along the way...there will likely be more. But each day promises new opportunity to point out the rising of the kingdom and point to the One who makes it grow. Over the last thirteen, nineteen, thirty-four years, not much has changed and so much has changed. I'm still kneading Truth and I'm still needy of God's grace and am still seeking to serve among the most needy among us. With each new day, I want to help others discover the