Have you ever heard of Brian Regan (not the comedian, but the would-be spy)? Back in 2003, Regan was a former analyst for the United States Air Force. Regan made headlines when he sent an email (of all things) to the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi with the subject line, “I am willing to commit espionage against the United States by providing your country with classified information.”
Regan wasn’t the smartest spy who ever lived. In fact, he wasn’t a spy at all. Continue reading
This past weekend we wrapped a two-part vision calling Grace Community Church to be Side By Side this year. The basis of this call was the fact that we are needy and we are needed. Everyone in our church has needs, and therefore everyone is needed. It’s actually one of those counterintuitive truths about life. (Kind of like the harder you swing to hit a golf ball, the worse the results!)
We’re not inclined to conclude that needy people are needed, but your neediness can actually be a gift for others. As God meets you in your neediness, you are uniquely positioned to meet someone else’s neediness because you know the importance of coming side by side with someone. After all, you needed someone to come side by side with you. When you do it remembering your own neediness, it actually causes you to come side by side with someone in humility and compassion – exactly the way you would want someone to come side by side with you!
Let me give you another example of what this looks like in addition to the touching example from Bill & Ruth Williams’ story (thanks again, Bill and Ruth!) In Matthew 14:15-20, a crowd follows Jesus into a desolate place. Jesus teaches, heals, and ministers to the crowd. Seeing it was getting late, the disciples suggest that Jesus should send the crowds away on a dinner break. Jesus shocks the disciples by telling them to feed the crowd…in the wilderness…with no money.
The disciples are needy. They don’t have what it takes to do what Jesus commands. All they have is five pieces of bread and two fish. Jesus responds with five of the most hopeful words of this section – “BRING THEM HERE TO ME.” Bring what you have. Watch what I do with it. You probably can guess how the story goes. He has them sit, then begins to break the bread and distribute it to the crowds. And the small one-person meal turns into an all-you-can-eat buffet! They ate and were satisfied, and there are twelve baskets full leftover.
Now the moral of this story is NOT that we need to share our lunch! I think it rather shows that Jesus is God, and as God he can feed his people. The disciples simply brought what they had, and Jesus did the rest.
You are needed not because what you have is so abundant or extravagant, but because Jesus will meet the needs of his people through it. Just like he meets your needs. Neediness and Neededness – what a great opportunity for God to demonstrate the extravagance of his grace and the strength of his power. I hope you’ll experience it with us this year…side by side.
Installation is such a funny word to describe what happened to me this past weekend. Maybe that’s why people used every word imaginable: coronation, inauguration, commemoration, ordination, indignation… (just kidding about the last one).
Though I have been functioning in the lead pastor role for a few months now, there was something so powerful and beautiful about the Church gathered to witness the goodness of God over my life. I say “the Church” with a capital ‘C’ because there were pastors, church leaders, and congregants from all over the region together to support and encourage what God has done.
I wanted to share a few highlight moments that stood out to me from this weekend.
- The elders’ charges. I was deeply moved by the gravity of all that they were calling me to, yet I did not feel burdened by it. Their love and concern for me and the flock were evident in the things that they charged me with. Devotion to the Word. Shepherding and caring for the flock. Preaching the Gospel to the lost. Praying continually. Caring for my family. These are things I would expect of anyone who is a Christ follower, but I understand how important it is that I stay focused on these things for the sake of the church. I felt their authority, and I sensed God’s good grace.
- Mark Norman’s baton. I thought I was going to make it through the service. I really did. During the first two songs, I was overcome with emotion thinking about God’s good favor in my life. It’s more than I deserve. Once I got through that, I thought I’d be ok…until I saw that man’s face. His humility, gentleness, and my great esteem for him brought all my tears to overflowing. It was a mixture of missing him, thankfulness that he would entrust this sacred group of people to me, and awe over the work of God. I’m looking at the baton as I write this, and I’m overwhelmed again.
- Praying together as a church. I look back on the pictures of the gathered church with hands extended, and I am so grateful to be a part of the body. God knew what he was doing when he knit us together. He knew that no one of us were sufficient to make Christ known on our own. He put us in community – locally and universally – for the sake of experiencing the power of what it means to have Christ in common. When we exploded in singing the anthem, “Be Thou My Vision,” I was undone.
- The Intergenerational Gathering. You may or may not know, but Sarah and I grew up at Korean Immigrant Church in Silver Spring. There were about 50 folks who came to support this moment in Grace’s history. Many of them had aged to just barely being recognizable to me. When my uncle from Korea prayed, his words connected the dots for me. He prayed something like, “Lord, you opened the doors of this country to immigrants many years ago, and now it is an opportunity to return the blessing – to prepare this church for the second coming of Christ.” Wow. I realized then and there that there is so much more going on in the greater story of history and time than any of us realize. The generations and the nations gathering together at Grace. What will God do?
I could go into lots more details and anecdotes about the weekend, but I’ll leave you with this. Several people congratulated me that evening saying, “we’re behind you.” While I am grateful for the sentiment of support, as I thought about that imagery, I realized that it’s not the most accurate. As God has called me to lead, I believe that God is calling me to lead in a contrary way to the usual picture of leader-follower. Henri Nouwen captures what truly excites me about our road ahead.
Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people.
I’m so proud to be a pastor at Grace Community Church, and I’m even more humbled as I rely on God’s grace to be the kind of pastor this church deserves.