I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and my church background has largely been focused on grassroots church plants ministering to college students and young adults. As a result, I haven’t had much exposure to some of the giants of Christianity who have mentored many of today’s influential church leaders. This changed, however, when I attended this year’s Rethink Conference (rethink.com), where I had the privilege of listening to several men and women of faith whose journeys have spanned 30, 40, 50+ years. These are individuals who have lived lives of integrity through obscurity and much adversity and maintained that integrity through the challenges of global Christian leadership.
Now as I reflect on the day and the words of these individuals, Hebrews 12:1-3 from The Message comes to mind:
Do you see what this means-all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running-and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed-that exhilarating finish in and with God-he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
These veterans threw a room full of church leaders the heart and soul of their life’s message, but what struck me the most as I listened was the repeated motif of getting back to the basics.
One speaker, a “pastor to pastors,” reminded us of Paul’s plea with Timothy to flee danger, temptation, idols, immorality, and materialism. This man ached for us to maintain our intimacy with God and to not lose that intimacy in the busyness of ministering. Another speaker inspired us with a reminder of the transformative power of Christ in a person’s life. He reminded us that our focus should be on transforming individuals into disciples through the message of good news-a message about a personal God who offers us redemption and hope for eternity-instead of counting how many faceless crowds we’ve told about Christ.
A counselor warned us that in our times of pain we are increasingly vulnerable to a downward spiral of addiction and idolatry. He concluded with the idea that our freedom is found in recognizing that on our own we are powerless to make things better, therefore we must fall back into the love of God. He ended by quoting Galatians 5:1, “Christ has liberated us into freedom. Therefore stand firm and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
My prayer for us is this-that we will see our roots grow deep in God’s love, grace, and truth as we live boldly for Him in our confusing, sticky, painful, wonder-filled days on earth. I pray that we find encouragement from others who have gone before us, and that we accept their wisdom so that we might avoid experiencing personally some of the struggles they’ve endured. I pray especially that our hearts absorb the amazing “yes” of Christ:
For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him. Therefore the “Amen” is also through Him for God’s glory through us. Now the One who confirms us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God; He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.
2 Corinthians 1:20-22
I pray we rest in God’s promise to bring us to completion.