I don't normally try to think up a title for stuff I post until after I write it, because quite often I don't know where my thoughts are going to take me. Today is different.
Today we, for all intents and purposes, formally "joined" a new church.
Ironically, our decision came at the same time the Senior Pastor of this church's main campus announced he would soon be assuming a new role, because he believes that the church needs someone who can devote themselves full-time to the church administration. To Pastor to the flock.
You've heard of him probably, Max Lucado.
It'll be in the news tomorrow. Lucado isn't leaving the church; he's going to assume a different role more in keeping with his passions, preaching and writing. He also has some health issues, but they are not anything that cannot be dealt with through the miracles of medicine, and a devout faith. I suspect most folks won't notice any change in terms of the church itself. He's admitting that he is not in the right place to handle much of the behind the scenes stuff...and good for him for being honest about it.
For those of you who have traversed this little isle on the digital ocean and hitched a ride to my emotional roller coaster since last September, you know joining a new church is something I quite honestly never conceived of doing. However, in the past few months it's become apparent to me that God is forcing my hand. He's done it since I came to Christ, challenging me, pushing me, convicting me. Believe me, in the past several months I have tried everything possible to tune Him out.
The season of dryness is ending.
Lucado does not really Pastor our church, we're an offshoot, a campus church, whatever you want to call it. Sometimes Lucado preaches live at our campus, oftentimes someone else does, sometimes we watch Lucado's sermon from the main campus on a big projector screen - something I thought I would never tolerate but in fact immediately embraced.
This is a big, organized church. Again, something I ran from throughout my Christian journey. They have well defined perimeters, formed by years of debate and devotion to scripture.
It's informal...but it's not "sloppy church."
Covenant was a wonderful church for us for a time, but we were wounded by it in a manner I could never have envisioned. We still have deep heart-felt relationships with a few members, others have chosen to compartmentalize us, categorize us, and abandon us.
And I have wallowed in it.
No more. The season of dryness is over.
Covenant will always hold a place in our hearts with wonderful and warm memories that are good and abiding. However, I now realize that for many years, I was not seeing the whole picture. When I did see it, I thought our choices were few; Name the demons, call out the church's failings, and confront those in church leadership of their personal betrayal to my family of which they are indeed guilty. In other words, create dissension in the church (which, in reality, was not an option) OR try to suffer through it in silence, hoping to heal, hoping this small body of Christ would start to see the incongruity with what was being preached and what was not being practiced.
For a while, we chose the latter, and it only became worse, more obvious, and more painful. Unreturned phone calls, unanswered emails, and phone calls from only a few close and very dear friends. It simply became too hard... too painful .
So we went exploring, our own ministries, other churches, missions. Then, we came upon a place where we felt comfortable. I still kept a tight rein on our commitment, though, because I build walls (see the previous post) as a defense mechanism.
Today, I listened to a man for two minutes on a video announcement explaining he had no business being the senior pastor of a mega-church, the growth of which is largely due to his passion, wisdom, and guiding hand. He made this announcement for two reasons; first, because of minor health reasons (which could become major health reasons should he continue at this pace) and second, because his true heart lies elsewhere -- writing and preaching. He endorsed the search for a new Senior Pastor and made the church stronger in doing so. He will stay on the staff, but he will be subordinate to the new Senior Pastor and will write and preach... the things he does best.
Today I also watched Amy have a panic attack before the main sermon on the 40-day spiritual quest our church is embarking on to seek additional church elders. We were in the front row when she left the sanctuary to get some fresh air. Moments later, I realized that a man I have talked with at any length perhaps four times was running after her, as if by ESP... and I knew in my heart that I should stay in my seat and listen to the sermon because Amy was in good hands... godly hands.
The season of dryness is over.
I found Amy after the sermon and we talked over what was bothering her. I won't belabor it, but it was essentially the affirmation of the conviction that this is where God wants us to be. And God killed two birds with one stone -- Amy became more comfortable with the only man in our cell group with whom she felt she might have "issues," and she was able to get to the root of some very deep pain. After more than two months of counseling with a Christian therapist, they barely scratched the surface. In 20 minutes, "Barry" was able to pinpoint a problem, give her good, solid, and godly counsel, and promised to not only keep it to himself but also to follow up with her.
I had to leave her for a while because a man I met last week, Chuck Huish, and I had agreed to meet between services to talk about how to handle the media in light of his wife's disappearance. A news conference is set for Wednesday. I can't go into more detail, except to say Chuck is in a far better place than he was one week ago, and there is hope.
Soon, Amy ventured back in and we were surrounded by people wanting to know us better. One of those people was the "Campus Minister," a man I have never spoken with directly by my own choosing (walls again). Although I did send him an email regarding Chuck and the website we set up and which so many of you were kind enough to mention on your own blogs and websites.
Some time ago, Amy and I signed up to go through the "course" this campus church offers for folks "thinking" about joining, but the course doesn't start for several more weeks. Today, Amy asked the Campus Minister directly if that course was a "requirement" before joining or becoming "partners." He laughed, and said, "Of course not, if you want to join our church, circle "partner" instead of "attender" on the database update sheet for our directory. If you're already signed up for the next class, GREAT, but it's not a requirement. We would love to have you as part of our fellowship!"
The season of dryness is over.
I must have had 10 people come up to me today, hug me, introduce themselves to me, tell me about themselves, ask about how I was doing, etc... I have never met most of these people, but they said they "heard" I had had a rough week from some of the people in the small cell group we've been attending in conjunction with this larger corporate worship. Amy was approached by someone she didn't know, had never met, and "sort of" recognized. She told Amy that she almost called her last night for several reasons. The Lord put Amy on her heart. As it turns out, her husband works for the company at which we keep our server, although that had nothing to do with her "almost" calling. A member of our cell group also works there. Small world.
I handed Amy the information sheet and circled "partner" (aka "member").
Okay, admittedly, Amy had to fill out the rest of the form, otherwise people wouldn't be able to read it - my handwriting is abominable.
Suffice it to serve as formal notice, though; the wallowing is done! The looking back is over!
I realize some portions of this post may sound harsh. That's intentional. I'm making no apologies for it. Some folks I know need to read this, and the ones who know me personally and know me best understand that I'm not going to couch things any longer, or try to put a "loving edge" on their self-perceived intentions.
If you say you preach the truth, be prepared to hear it on occasion too.
And that's that.
I will write no more on the matter.
The season of dryness is over...PRAISE GOD!
I'm looking ahead now, rushing as fast as possible to our mutual destiny with God Almighty. The scars I have on my heart will only serve now to help point the way.
And just coincidentally as I type these words, so help me God, a hard rain is beginning to fall...
"God's thunder sets the oak trees dancing a wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches. We fall to our knees, we call out, "Glory!"' - Psalm 29:9