We went to redemption in Rio Rancho yesterday. This is a church plant from Desert Springs. New church plants are easy for me to feel a special kinship with since that’s precisely what Lifesong was. I guess there were two primary things that I noticed and both of them were more threads in the tapestry God is weaving of whatever “next” is. First though, for the quick review. The message was solid and well delivered (and hey Carlos Griegos who gave the sermon is a former Lobo Chaplain, so what’s not to like:-) It was on parenting and there was a heavy emphasis on Grace and love which is always a good sign a far as I’m concerned. Parenting in particular is one place where very noble intentions can lead to very unhelpful sermons. Fear of losing our kids can lead us to seek formulas, guilt, and isolation. Sometimes the messages become so missional (we raise the next generation to change the world…) that the idea of loving your kids as a treasure and gift from the Lord somehow never enters in. None of these were present in the sermon and I greatly appreciated that. There was a little of the “small Church desperation” among some of the members which I never liked when I saw in Lifesong (or frankly in myself) but that often comes from a place of deep love and community and a little fear, so I give grace for that. None of that was present in the pastors who instead came across confident that God would lead as God would lead. The ratio of kids to parents was close to 1 to 1 (of course we with our seven kids encouraged that ratio), which we, of course are fine with. In particular adoption seems to be a big part of their culture, although I didn’t detect any self righteousness or pressure that “everyone should adopt.” As a side note it’s interesting, but not terribly important, that the two smaller churches we’ve attended(Paragon being the other one) had African American children in the class Josiah and Lidya attended, while the larger churches did not. This is not a judgement in any way except to wonder if it is true that the smaller churches were most disproportionately diverse, and if so, why? It is also possible that it’s more noticeable in a smaller church. I’m not sure. I do know that at redemption it’s the adoption culture which undoubtedly is responsible for that. So on to the two things I mentioned earlier.
1) I knew a surprising number of people from other places. Although you might expect this in a big church, it was surprising in a church no bigger than Lifesong was when we started, that there were so many people I knew from past church experiences of one kind or another. The other thing about this that was cool was that some of them were kids in my church years and years ago who have now grown to be ministers in this church. Along with the younger folk I ran into someone who was a leader in the church I attended whenI was a college student, so there was a range and it was encouraging. It made me remember a couple of things. I’ve been around the block a bit and am now not only in title but in reality among my community an elder. I don’t mean by this old. That I still don’t believe, but that I”ve achieved a place of natural leadership and influence, that I have a legacy of people I can point to who’s lives have been changed over the last 20 years is something you cannot cheat or shortcut. It’s something only perseverance and integrity gives you and I am grateful for God’s grace to lead me thus far. In fact, one of these friends had a conversation with me after church in which he was encouraging me and my family to join precisely so that we could exercise such positive influence within the church. He pointed out that the pastors were all under thirty (Can you imagine such a thing? says Pastormac, who was ordained at the age of 21) and that what we would have benefitted from in our early years was just such steady wisdom and influence. His words were persuasive but he added something to his words which I understand but with which I don’t think I agree (which is a wordy way of saying I’m still thinking about it.) He said that it’s the young people who will change the world. that it’s young people who have always changed the world from Alexander the Great on through history. His point was that in too many churches we hamstring the young and enthusiastic from having true leadership which is a shame and with that I agree. But aside from the number of older people who changed the world which was already beginning to formulate in my head (C.S. Lewis, Colnel Sanders, George Washington, and, according to this study, most innovators) Anyway as he talked about how now that we were both old (!) we had opportunity to change the world through them, I had two differing though not exactly contradictory reactions.
a) That would work. I could easily see myself doing that. I do have experiences and understandings and gifts which could be used here for just that purpose. I have no problem with doing that with or without a title. I never have. Perhaps this is why I am here.
b) I’m neither out of energy nor out of ability to lead and how awesome would it be if I did end up doing something in the university area which really did challenge college students to change the world in ways that matter, bringing good news to all sorts of people down the line. In other words, I felt a desire not only to influence younger men already on the road to doing great things, but to influence drifting, hopeless, angsty young men on the road to nothing. Now that would be something. 🙂
Before I move to step two, I want to say that I think changing the world is something each of us does every day, or at least can do. Passing a certain age, or not being past a certain age, does not take this amazing ability from you. Every time you love someone uniquely, every time you share the gifts you’ve been given to share, you run the risk of changing someone forever. Here’s one of my favorite Ted Talks to this point. You’vee seen it before if you’ve been a long time reader, but it’s worth seeing again.
2) I have an awesome family. During the teaching, Pastor Craig encouraged us to do a lot of things that make a lot of sense. To share the Gospel with your kids, for you are the primary message. To live the Gospel with your kids, because you are the primary model. To saturate your family with discussions around the dinner table with talk of Christ, rather than trying to force devotions. it was all good, and I felt good about it all. Let me be as clear as possible. My family is an Apple family. The number of computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads and iTunes purchases could supply a small business well. It is not an unusual site to see us at the dinner table on our devices. We have arguments and dysfunction and discussions about meaningless stuff (did you know kayak is not only a palindrome but actually a physical palindrome too because it can go forwards or backwards also?). We do not close every day with group prayer; we do not gather for family devotions. We are probably a lot like your family or likely even less disciplined and structured.
But last night, my family and I gathered to watch a video put out by John Elderege called “Epic.”
We did not do this as a result of the sermon but as a result of my having been trying to coordinate this for weeks. I got no pushback on the night we did it and we had a very long substantive and challenging discussion afterwards. This is not what is most awesome about my family though.
What is awesome is that during the discussion, we did not all express sterling faith, proper theological truths, and comfortable ideas. Instead we wrestled with troubling questions, doubts, and frustrations. We also shared truth and faith and grew as a result. But it encouraged me and confirmed for me that the life as a pastor, while it has brought pain and hardship to my family, while it’s meant a loss of stability now as we seek awkwardly to find what’s next for all of us; that while al this is true, it’s also created in my kids a genuine hunger, a freedom to seek God honestly and a love of truth, and bonding it all, a sense of community which makes it safe and ok to discuss in our family. My wife and my kids are amazing people. People willing to risk, to question, to learn, all in order to seek the true living God, rather than a pale, safe, but ultimately comfortless and impotent shadow of God. I was pleased to see that the community my kids fear we lost with Lifesong was inbred in us as a family. Whatever next is, I am grateful that it will be with them