Thursday and Friday I spent time at The Global Leadership Summit. A two day conference hosted by the Willow Creek Association. Powerful leaders, Preachers, Best Selling Authors, and CEOs of major companies all gather together with thousands of people to share their experiences, convictions and advice on how to be an equipped leader in our workplaces, in our churches and in our world. I walked into Atlee Community Church ready to lead the change in the culture of our churches today and was hopeful of gaining tools to help do so, but in 3 hours a challenging conversation over lunch, left me wondering why bother?
Returning to the afternoon session, Bryan Loritts, Pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a 1,500 member, 65% white and 35% African American church in one of the most racists cities in the country, had me undone. In the church culture that makes up our world today, I too feel his frustration and the passion to make churches a place where EVERYBODY gets to play ball. Where EVERYBODY has the access to see Jesus Christ.
This morning I read these words from Bryan:
"Lord help me.
Lord help us.
I have a love hate relationship with boldness, especially as an introvert. I shy away from boldness because it makes me uncomfortable. Yet I'm inspired by it. The people and stories that stir a fire in me to attempt bold things for Christ, aren't the shy, timid ones. They're bold.
It's that athlete playing hurt, yet risks everything to play in the big game.
It's the person at the casino betting all the assets from their fledgling company, hoping to make payroll.
It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walking down the long highway towards Mobile Alabama.
It's James Meredith's first day at Old Miss.
It's Deitrich Bonhoeffer's refusal to stay and enjoy the security and comfort of America, but to board a ship to return to Germany, like Paul, knowing that his return could cost his life.
In 1939, Bonhoeffer wrote boldly of the need to risk it all to his friend Reinhold Niebuhr:
'I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I shall have no rights to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trails of this time with my people . . .Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make that choice in security."
That's inspiring. Had Bonhoeffer played it safe his life would not have had the impact it did . . . it still does. But because of his boldness lines from his pen like, "When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die," have a force of bold authenticity that moves us.
We're drawn to boldness… Boldness isn't the absence of fear, it's just the refusal to be paralyzed by it. The same Jesus who boldly went to his death on a Friday afternoon, was described just hours before as being distressed as he poured out his soul to His Heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane…."
Throughout the rest of the conference various speakers spoke of doing what's right, even when it's hard, even when it seems like you might lose everything--to stand in that gap that has separated people from Jesus Christ. Being a gay Christian I have witnessed up close and personal how wide that gap is and how few are standing in it's midst.
Yesterday afternoon, Tyler Perry spoke these words: "I wish the local church would let me be a soul in need of a Word…." and I know that there are the same cries within the gay community. Through the tears, the doubts, and the frustration, God has used these past two days to refuel me, to reminded me that this is His bidding for my life. To be the tree that gets climbed on, carved in, and sat on all in hopes that someone gets to see Jesus. That anyone who has the courage to walk into the doors of a church where most likely people will not understand them, will have the same opportunity to serve where they are called, to seek Godly guidance when it is needed and to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus without inhibitions.
The Summit was closed out with this charge . . . "There's no quitting."
There are going to be times when quitting is the easy option, but I can't loose sight that it's all about Him . . .it's all about just one getting to see Jesus, to encounter the impact He can have on one's life. It's about bringing the Kingdom of God to those gaps. There's no option B.
**I'd be remise if I didn't mention another Brian who has impacted my last two days. A house guest, a new friend, who words of wisdom spoken in exhaustion has challenged me to keep Kingdom minded, to be the tree and to pick back up my paper shield and wooden sword for the cause that God has placed on my heart. Brian, The thoughts and ideas that I have heard from various men and woman would not have impacted me as greatly if you didn't help to prepare my heart to be open for all that God had in store. I appreciate your faith, your vulnerability, wisdom, and friendship.**