When my family set out with Teri, Sean, Adam, and a few others to start a church from scratch I knew there would be landmines to avoid. I read the books and listened to those who had gone before me talk about the importance of gathering a big enough crowd, raising plenty of money, and marketing my church as the perfect spiritual meal for those who would come to be fed: not too hot, not too cold, not too big, not too small – just right. Now of course, we didn’t get it all perfectly right, but after doing all of those things with some sufficiency and still failing by my own standards and the standards of those who sent me out, I completely unravelled.
Total meltdown. Broken friendships. Marriage in ruins. Bank accounts empty. A ravaged soul looking for any pathway out of the life I had signed up to lead.
After a few years of spiraling, I realized it was not my lack of preaching skills (though they needed work), nor my smallish congregation (though it was larger than half of the others in my town) that were the problem to be addressed. It was my truncated view of the gospel, mis-shaped inner life with God, and distorted view of God’s mission that were the real landmines that had taken me out at the knees and in my crawling around looking for answers those landmines’ neighbors were blowing my heart to pieces.
My road to redemption all started with the beautiful invitation to live a whole new life from the one I had thought would bring such meaning, and the new life was the most beautiful of lives ever imagined, one where not only were my sins forgiven and heaven secured solely through the work of Christ, but also so much more. A life where the ways of Jesus became my second nature. A life where pursuing humility was actually fun. A life where lying about the size of our congregation would never cross my mind. A life where Jen was not constantly attending to the broken pieces of insecurity.
This was my introduction to a Robust Gospel.
I went back to the story in Matthew 13 of a man who sold everything to buy a field.
I dug deeply into the discussion Jesus had with that sinful woman at the well in John 4.
I relished the thought that maybe, just maybe, a day would come that I would, with unswerving devotion and not a moment’s hesitation, pour the richest of perfumes on the feet of Jesus just so I could breathe in his presence a bit longer.
And at first blush I thought, a little work in this area and I will preach this really well. “That’ll preach!” I thought. But in a pretty short period of time I knew I’d have to sell everything: My dream of a big church. The conferences they’d invite me to speak. Books to write. Counseling Billy Graham. Teaching Andy Stanley about leadership.
My vision of life-changing meetings held around a conference table custom made from the wood sourced on a mission field we established and carved perfectly in the center of said table would lie our crisp and widely known logo by the hands of villagers we evangelized. It all had to die.
I didn’t get to have both. Maybe some can, that’s not for me to say. I knew I could not. I’d have to sell it all, to get just the one thing that mattered most. And strangely, once I was convinced I could have The Kingdom, I found the glimmer and shine of the former coins losing their luster rather quickly.
This Sunday may appear to be just another Sunday to you. Or maybe you rolled your eyes at the thought of a whole ninety minutes focused on the global efforts of a smallish church in Folsom and the looming request for your hard-earned cash to fund these efforts. But this Sunday is so much more than all that. This Sunday is our declaration that we will sell it all for the Kingdom. A reminder to us all and accountability that we will make any sacrifice we must to see to it that the efforts God invites us to partner with Him on get our attention. This Sunday is a celebration of God’s mysterious desire to use a group of broken people gathered in Folsom to save lives through clean water in Guatemala, encourage leaders who plant churches all over, and tell the Jesus story everywhere we go.
I hope you’ll join Jen, the kids, and me for a great day together. Bring a friend with you, they will be glad they came, and I am certain they will be inspired to see your willingness to sell it all for the Kingdom!