LEAVING OUR WORLD BEHIND
The lightly-crashing surf and warm Pacific breeze will haunt my memories for the next five months, as I'm snowblowing my driveway and inching my way down blizzardy highways. My son Noah and I enjoyed a brief West Coast trip last week, visiting the ARC Pastors' Conference, a group I've grown to respect from afar. ARC (Association of Related Churches) is a very different "tribe" than what I grew up with, or than what BCBC is, and that's why I enjoy learning with them. It's good to get out of the familiar on occasion and see what others are thinking and doing.
Now, for those of you protesting my yearning for the inherent beauty of Southern California beaches (I'd settle for Florida or Hawaii too, I suppose), well, OK. Yes, I love Midwestern leaf colors and the fall smell and - with some qualifications - pumpkin spice. And yes, I'd like to see snow on Christmas Eve. But let's be honest, there's something heavenly about a warm ocean breeze. I'm hoping my own corner of heaven, whatever that looks like, at least includes that option.
Back to ARC, and to what God challenged me with during that time:
First of all, our friends at ARC really have a passion for church planting - particularly churches that reach out to younger, millennial culture. To me that's really exciting, and it syncs up with our Great Commission Goal #3. Their level of excellence is off-the-charts, and their vision is bold - even as new churches start, the young congregations immediately begin sponsoring the next church that will start in the next area.
Even if I'd do a few things differently than they would, the fever for aggressively sharing the gospel is definitely contagious among that group. Seeing them in action makes me remember that sometimes, even when we think we're holding on to something of great value (like our own traditions) we forget that other approaches have a lot of value too.
The second thing I was challenged by was a statement made about pastoring: "God has not called us to 'platform' but to 'pastor.'" And its true, of course.
People can hear always get more 'platform' (preaching, singing, etc.) but the deeper need in all of our lives is to be 'pastored' - shepherded forward, loving led, honestly encouraged, gently corrected, joyfully inspired. And in a growing church, the 'pastoring' can't remain a delegated function for just a few staff people, it has to be a whole-church commitment to love one another.
Think of it: the more we care for each other's needs, the more we take interest in the lives of others, the more we have one another over for dinner or take each other out for coffee, well, the more our church family can feel like 'family' to the next person who walks into our front door.
So, yes, Trevor and I are really aiming to insure that the 'platform' ministry of BCBC is rock-solid, high-quality, and high-impact. But that isn't all it takes for disciple-making - we all need to connect, to befriend, to be loved and to love.
The third challenge I felt was to care more deeply about the world actually around me, not just the world I want to live in. I'll explain: modern culture has afforded each of us the luxury of only engaging with the things we prefer. Between Netflix and Pandora, we never actually have to listen to or see a type of entertainment that doesn't precisely align with our style. And with hundreds of restaurants within forty-five minutes of where we live, we never need taste something not exactly tailored to our wishes. Even as we scroll the internet, we discover that the advertising and news we're seeing is actually tailored to us - meaning we aren't even presented with options outside of our preexisting preferences.
I think we are paying a price for all of that customization - we are growing more and more separated as Americans. It is possible now to live "in" a world that is entirely different than the world our neighbors live in. Which means we could really care about things that no one around us is caring about, or we could assume things are true that no one around us believes. And we'd never know!
I once heard that "love is leaving your world and going into someone else's."
That's what Jesus did for us, and we probably need to do a better job of intentionally doing that for others (especially seeing that Christianity is a cultural minority in America now). They aren't going to come into our world, to hear our message. We can't huddle up and camp out in our own enclaves, and expect that we'll be effective at loving or leading. We have to "go" out with the gospel, and we have to drive past our assumptions and approaches regarding "the way we wish things were."
Which takes me back to the beach, to "my preferred world." As enticing as it is, it's not the world actually around me, and its not the world I've been called to reach.
Let's keep learning together,