I’ve been part of a church all of my life.
When you hear a phrase like that, you may expect the next sentence to begin describing the pain, heartache, and disappointment experienced within the walls of a church. That’s not the case with me. It is my privilege to look back on a lifetime of church with only good memories.
Today, I read the monthly newsletter of the church in Kingsport, Tennessee--the same church my father pastored from 1955-1968. We moved from Tennessee when I was nine years old--hard to believe that was 49 years ago! Yet, as I read the newsletter, I saw some familiar names. Some of the people who were leaders in that church in the sixties are either still leading or they have a family member who has stepped up to lead the next generation. I thought of Sunday school teachers who taught me the Bible, worship services that required both Mom and Dad on the stage with Dad as the pastor and Mom as the organist. I also remembered a time or two that Dad had to stop his message and ask my brother and me to settle down, sit down, and prepare for further discussion later at home.
We moved to Dayton, Ohio in the summer of 1968. Yesterday, my brother and I were texting with our friends in Florida, Amy and Scott, who were there when we arrived in Dayton. Amy’s parents were waiting for our family when we drove into Dayton for the first time. While Dad met with the church leadership, Amy’s mom, Joan, took our family to their house to swim.
Several years later, another family showed up in church. Scott’s dad became an immediate source of encouragement to my dad and Scott’s mom became a friend to my mom. Scott and I became friends and eventually college roommates, and we enjoy a friendship that endures to this day. There are so many people I could tell you about in our church in Dayton.
I was a part of the Dayton church until I moved to Oklahoma City in 1981 and until my Dad left the church in 1984. It was a small church in Oklahoma City that captured my heart during a week-long visit earlier that year. It has been my life privilege to be a part of this church family for 36 years. I love what can happen when a church family decides to get dangerous; the Bible calls it faith. I love it when a group of people make bold, faith-filled decisions that are humanly impossible. Throughout my church life, I’ve been privileged to watch countless impossible things happen.
This has certainly been my experience in Oklahoma City; my Crossings family is just amazing. I have watched these people give up things for 36 years. They gave up their comforts. They gave their finances. They’ve given up their favorite music. They gave up pitch-in dinners, all-church picnics, convenient parking spaces. They gave up knowing everyone.
Why did they give all this stuff up? Because they were more concerned about those far from God than the comforts of those who are close to God.
They refused to turn the church into a comfortable and controlled Christian country club. They decided they would bring their very best to the work of God through His church. When they decided to do something for God, they brought their best efforts. They believed excellence inspires people and honors God. They refused to borrow money. If God called us to do something, they believed He would give us all that we needed to do what He had called us to do. And He has. Every time.
Today, we have a very large church. Being a large church was never our goal, but as people kept coming to the church, we kept making room. God is not any more impressed with our large church than He was our small church. But He is honoring and blessing a church that believes:
With God, all things are possible. -Matthew 19:26
He is blessing our church because we do crazy things like love the unlovable, forgive the sin-soaked friend, do what Jesus said to do, love others like He loved us. It’s in some ways simple and in other ways humanly impossible. But God, through His spirit, makes the impossible possible.
I love what thousands of Crossings folks can do when we decide to have an impact. Build a clinic. Open a community center to one of the most troubled areas in our city. Provide counsel and care to the addicted. Welcome with open arms the battered, bruised, and broken. Teach the depth and breadth of the Bible. Take the church to the community with a satellite site. Honor 450 veterans or active duty personnel still serving the country. Go to the front lines of the refugee crisis. Get serious about opening our homes and lives to kids who need families.
All we’ve ever tried to do was live up to our potential. We decided to seize opportunity when God put it in front of us. We decided we would not shy away from a challenge. We decided to live out a dangerous faith. We decided we would be transparent, honest, and not pretend to be anything more than we are in His strength.
And God keeps opening doors, allowing us to love and serve our community, and allowing us as a church to love each other in ways that makes the city want to come check it out.
I could go on and on, but these are just a few reasons why I love the church. I love my Christ-Centered church committed to live by faith, be a voice of hope, and be known by love. Kim and I plan to serve our Crossings family for the rest of our lives. In the coming years, I will gladly move from the stage to the back row. After serving all these years from the stage, we will gladly find our place in the back corners of our various auditoriums. I’ll be there to support our pastor when sweeping changes must be made, when the music changes, when we are called to give with extreme generosity as God calls us to a new exciting, terrifying, and impossible task.
Why? Because I love the church.