Moving onward

This past year and a half my wife and I have enjoyed the tremendous privilege of walking alongside a very special group of high school students. We joined them at the beginning of their junior year and are almost to the point of seeing them graduate and move on to college and career choices.  Part of the satisfaction has been how they have welcomed us to join them on their journey, allowing us to invest in their lives and to share their triumphs and struggles along the way. I have also enjoyed the honor of mentoring a few of the guys one-on-one, engaging them in their spiritual walk and encouraging them in their personal life decisions.  You could say that my wife and I are like proud parents as we've watched these students grow and flourish in their walk with Christ and as they transition into the next phases of their lives.

Reflecting on this season in my life is a little bittersweet since not only are we about to say goodbye to this group of students as they move on from high school, but our family is now about to embark on our own journey of faith in a few short days as we move to the coast of North Carolina. We have encouraged our students to bloom where God plants them and not to settle for spiritual mediocrity, being willing to take on new challenges in order to leave the confines of faith that can all too often be too comfortable and "safe". It is exciting to be taking our own advice of planting ourselves in a new location in excited anticipation to see what God has in store for us.

The area where are moving to is Southport, NC, and it is a rather quaint little coastal town that looks as if it's been cut and pasted from a picture postcard. Why would our family move to such a place that does not seem to be very spiritually "strategic"? Wouldn't it make more sense for us to move into an inner city or suburban location that has many more people and potential for ministry opportunities? I mean, isn't that the strategy of today's church planting and post-church movements and methodology?

Maybe, but not for us.

Since I intentionally stepped aside from serving in a church in May 2010, God has revealed so much to me (and my wife) about what His kingdom work is and isn't about. Indulge me to list a few of these lessons that God has been teaching us:
  • Life is ministry. It cannot be defined by a "church job" or a title that has been bestowed on me.
  • Ministry is defined by people, not by programs or man made structures.
  • The church has been crammed into such a tiny box that in many ways it has lost its identity.
  • The church isn't "broken" but it also doesn't "work" as effectively as it could.
  • Many followers of Christ are discontented with the church today and are desperately looking for more relevant and meaningful expressions of worship and ministry.
  • Believers can no longer sit idly by and watch as many churches embrace a maintenance mentality, protecting the little kingdoms that they have built for themselves.
  • Jesus cares desperately for His church and we should too.
You see, I have been one of the countless many who have been frustrated with church yet have spent far too much time whining and complaining instead of actually doing something. There is a difference between reacting to what bothers you and choosing instead to respond to it. I love church plants and I know several guys that God is using to reach lost people that the church has all but forgotten about, but I also fear that too often plants are started as a reaction to what many don't like about church and those drawn to such plants come from the same ilk. My perspective is that if people get frustrated or angry and leave one church to start or be a part of another one, then it's just a matter of time before they will find themselves frustrated and angry there too.

So what does this have to do with our work with high school seniors and subsequent move to the coast? Simply put, we are moving into a new community to engage the people who live there with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are going to live life with them. Not to plant a church or even to start one, but rather to introduce people to Jesus. I feel it is far more effective to bring people to Christ and then bring them to church rather than vice versa. We will align ourselves with a local body of Christ, yet our aim with our neighbors will be to first align them with the Savior.

We are pumped to see our students move onward and experience exciting new life changes and challenges. And we are equally excited to embrace those same challenges as a family as we strive to obey the voice and heart of God. I would invite you to join us - and please know that we would love for you to move with us - but not if that means you miss the opportunity to invest yourselves with your own neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates, and friends for the cause of Christ. Life is ministry.

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