Way back in 1984, I stepped into a living room with 20 people and fell in love with a new churchplant.
Thirty years later, I gave my last sermon there after having stepped down as senior pastor.
I still loved the church.
Don’t get me wrong—there were a number of times I nearly quit. The ups and downs of ministry-life felt overwhelming at times. There were fantastic seasons with the wind at our back…as well as dull winter seasons with frozen, still air. Of course it was not always easy—but honestly, is any job?
Yet I loved my church.
What we stood for, what our mission was, and the vision of what we could be. Together.
Over the years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to not like your church, to not get genuinely excited about what God was doing in and through the people there. To not have your heart inexplicably and mystically woven together with others. Again, don’t get me wrong: of course, there were things that drove me crazy, and those things were always people.
But it’s like my family.
Yep, the one with the uncle perpetually saying inappropriate things at the family reunions.
I remember one particular Wednesday night service when we were serving communion, and people filed down the aisles to receive the elements. I knew so many of their stories, their brokenness, their pain. We had a reputation for attracting hurting people, partly because of our large recovery ministry, along with hosting thousands of outreaches in disenfranchised areas of the city. As people queued up while the worship team quietly played, I suddenly and unexpectedly began crying. For a moment, it felt like I had stumbled into a thin place, and I felt the crazy kind of love God had for each person, including me, juxtaposed against my own profound brokenness.
It became crystal clear in that moment: we were all in need of Deep Redemption.
It is one thing to really see how screwed up you are; it’s another to see how passionately loved you are. And in that moment, Paul’s pointed encouragement inexplicably flashed in my mind: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Or, as Jesus flipped it around, “He who has been forgiven little, loves little” (do prophets/messiahs all drink from half-empty glasses?).
It’s funny how that seems to work: the more I recognize my own need and God’s delight to fill it, the more capable I am to love others. Even the ones in my own family…uh, church.
Do you love the church you lead?
It might be time to step into a thin place