This morning as I read in John's Revelation, I came across a portion of a verse that once symbolized a eureka moment in my life: “behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one can shut...you have a little power, and kept my word, and didn’t deny my name." Revelation 3:8
I had just joined the staff of a large and growing church after 16 years of bi-vocational ministry in a smaller church, smaller city.
My life mission had become about reaching cities, even my profession before coming on board with a "full-time" ministry role had been in public relations for a small school system. That role was seen by me as a city-reaching opportunity, as I employed skills from a recent masters degree in community education and resource development.
Joining a large growing church in my hometown in 1990 seemed most logical in sequence as a response to the Word spoken to me in 1978: "Whereever I send you, seek that city, I'll give you a city, if not this city, the next." I had left the classroom which I deeply loved after following my heart in pursuit of a masters degree in '83 and an Ed.S. in '87 both seen as preparation. It all made sense.
Later while sitting in a staff meeting and listening to the Senior Pastor describe what he felt he was hearing, I wrote the portion of the verse cited above, in the upper right corner of the hard copy journal I then carried. That was before PDA's (personal digital assistants, if you remember the Palm Pilot brand of the mid '90's)!
I then began a series of expansion plans to include Sr.Housing, a Christian Middle/ High School, an inner-city Family Resource Center, as well as campus land acquisitions necessary for our growth. All those possibilities seemed to unfold with little effort as I prayed and responded to the Spirit.
Those were amazing days, yet I soon realized our vision had outrun "industry standards" as related to the Institutional Church of that day. The "tail" seemed to others to be "wagging the dog." To myself, we were serving the community, though eventually I would understand that my efforts had only been accomodated as a strategy to attract the community to our campus. It took some years for that to sink in, though sadly it has.
Many of you have kept up with my decades long rant since my 2008 word from the Lord: "My church is in foreclosure" and as well are aware of the aftershock of what many dreamed for 2020, the year of clear vision, only to find us experiencing the isolating effect of the carry over from COVID 19.
Would providence require a deconstruction of the institution? After all, we have just passed that 500 year cycle that seems to require a reawakening and a reformation as evidenced by the demise of so many denominations and books such as the soon to be released, "The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going, and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back?" by Jim Davis and Micheal Graham.
You may have begun to understand why my last 15 years have been focused more on the community and the marketplace than the church itself, though I still enjoy Christian fellowship, worship with my wife and personally benefit from the message of grace given my hardened soul.
The good news, besides the gospel, is that all this has triggered a response from an upcoming and very creative next generation, reluctant to attend the church as she now finds herself. Quite the entrepreneurs and perhaps representing the "evangelists" for a new model, one truly transformed with a focus on bringing His Kingdom to earth rather than awaiting an exit!
My soon to be released, newly expanded version of "Finding Your Kingdom Sweet Spot" will better deliver my heart.