For the past year and half I have had the awesome opportunity to be the pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church. The best way that I can describe this period of time is by way of growth. When I use this word, I am not speaking specifically of 'numerical' growth, which we have experienced, but of 'spiritual' growth. When I received the call to their pastor, I didn't have a clue what I was doing, and still know very little. This has truly been a season of learning and growing. With growth and learning comes successes and failures.
First, I would like to commend the members of the church for their patience with my failures and time of growth. I am a young man who at one point in my life I despised the church as a whole, and decided to never return to church, none-the-less become a pastor. My life was a picture of the biblical parable of the prodigal son. I am amazed at the sovereignty of God and the sense of humor he must have, by calling me back to the church and calling me to the office of pastor. In my time away from the church, I like the prodigal spent my time in the pig pen of the world, diving head first into a wicked lifestyle. During this time, I experienced what it was like being hopeless and totally depraved. Due to this life experience, when I became pastor I was full zeal and passion for the gospel of Christ and mission of reaching those that I met out in the world. This passion was not bridled, nor was it clothed in humility. I had no idea what it meant to shepherd, I came in ready to drive the flock, not ready to meet them where they were. The gifts of the spirit - kindness, gentleness, humility, and love - did not characterize my beginning. So I want you who are members of the church to know that I am deeply sorry for my attitude, and greatly appreciative of your patience in enduring my unbridled passion.
Second, I do not apologize for the heart behind this passion. I am deeply overwhelmed by the gospel and filled with conviction of my lack of pursuing the mission of living out the gospel. Last night I stood before you, a broken man, a man that realizes how prideful and ineffective my unbridled passion has been. I stood before as a broken soul who longs to see our community, both Christian and non-Christian changed by the gospel of Jesus. I so desire to see individuals ruined and freed by the same gospel that did the same in my own life. The challenge that we were confronted with last evening was that of the mission that Christ left for his disciples (which includes those of us today who call ourselves Christ followers). We were challenged to ask ourselves the following question: Are we willing to do whatever it takes to proclaim the gospel in order to see the lost saved and the saved disciples? It is my deepest desire that we all can say with all confidence...YES!
What I saw last night, left me very humbled and encouraged. I saw a group of people gather together in corporate prayer bowing before the cross of Jesus, broken. I saw individuals truly broken over our lack of pursuing this mission. I also saw broken individuals overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, overwhelmed with passion and zeal. I was humbled at this sight, and greatly encouraged at the potential that lies ahead. I pray that this is the beginning of a church that is going to live on mission, no matter how uncomfortable we become and no matter what it costs us.
If you are reading this blog, and you are Christian, I pray that you ask yourself this question. Many of us think that salvation is just a means to an end, namely heaven. Although heaven is a place we get to go when we die, the real gift of salvation is life, eternal life that begins now, living in the presence of God for his glory alone, getting to enjoy him forever. I pray that you are pursuing this mission and that you are truly enjoying this great and holy God we get to call our Father. I pray that you are so overwhelmed by the truth of the gospel that you stand before God and tremble, and that you are so free that you spend your lives proclaiming the gospel with your words and your lives. This is just the beginning, but I hope it is the beginning of us living as a church on mission. May God be glorified and may we be satisfied in him. Praise be to God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.