Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Risky Business

    Two of my current female members took a trip to California, rented a van, visited Rick Warren’s church and saw the sights. Somewhere along the way they encountered an unexpected traffic jam. If you’ve ever been anywhere close to LA, traffic jams are to be expected, but usually they are traffic related. Such was not the case. As they inched their way forward, curiously scanning the road as to some reasonable cause, there it was. It was not the product of rubber necking (the bane of those of us with somewhere to be), or of an accident, or of a road hazard, but of a helpless creature with its head stuck in a Yoplait cup wandering in circles on the road. Thousands of motorists, if not tens of thousands, were stopping and inching their way around this hapless and helpless creature. Leave it to two from NAC to be the compassionate duo.
    Before you begin condemning Californians for being calloused or indifferent to one of God’s little creatures, you really need to know one more thing: it was a skunk! Need I say more to explain the lack of mercy? Our dynamic duo was determined to deliver Pepe Le Pew from his imprisonment. While Kim stopped the van, Linda eased around from the passenger side intent on a quick snatch-and-run maneuver. Linda succeeded in the snatch part, then fell in her hasty retreat. Fortunately for her, the skunk, surprised by its sudden deliverance but still rather upset, decided to deliver its gift of gratitude to Kim. Thankfully, she was able to roll up her widow in time while Linda returned to the safety of the vehicle. I’m guessing that traffic didn’t begin moving very fast as other drivers were recovering from their fit of hysterical laughter at this scene.
    Church planting is risky business and it does require that we exit our comfort (and safe) zones for those incapable of helping themselves. While some make church planting sound like a walk in the park to the road to becoming a spiritual celebrity, make no mistake, it is not. Thank goodness, at least some of the time, we can get the window up.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Secret Covenant

   My wife loves children’s literature. Even though she is a trained educator with a couple of degrees, her love for it grew out of her exposure as a child. She is able to cite author and title from the obscure. I, on the other hand, can’t even recognize the most famous! My taste and interest in literature couldn’t be more different, yet we have managed a happy marriage for 35 years. While she loves the sense of security that reading children’s literature gives her, I thrive on the adventurous, hazardous, dangerous. Strangely enough, these patterns emerged in our church planting experience.
   While the contemporary church planting strategy includes healthy financial backing, such was not the case for us. When we embarked on our adventure in 1993, we did so with a handful of people and a lot of faith. While our motley group was abuzz with the excitement of escaped convicts, freed from the fetters of traditional church politics and trappings, I was living the reality of reality. I wasn’t looking for a leisurely and secure walk in the park. I wanted to climb mountains, but I was not delusional enough to assume that I was doing what God wanted. I embraced the risk of potential failure by entering into a secret covenant with God that went something like: “Lord, if we do not exceed 100 in regular attendance the first year, I’ll pack it in because I will know that You are not in it.” God wasn’t out on a limb, but I was prepared to be.
   Five locations, eighteen years, 600+ baptisms and two campuses later I think I got my answer. Yet, what it turned into was never what I expected. While my previous church experience had been more akin to children’s literature meets Freddy Krueger, it had nonetheless been lived out within the framework of the familiar, the common, the traditional, the secure. How God answered that secret covenant was not unlike His taking an overqualified Pharisee named Saul and making him an eminently qualified ambassador to Gentiles. Talk about adventure!