Pastor's Blog

When I was seventeen, I traveled out west with a chaperoned group of teens from our church.  We stopped at the Grand Canyon and it was decided that we would hike down into the canyon.  From the rim at the top you could see the Colorado River.  It didn’t seem that far to the bottom.

I think we hiked for an hour and a half and I was sure we were almost at the bottom.  We finally arrived at a landing where we could see the Colorado River again.  It didn’t seem any closer than it had been when we viewed it from the rim of the canyon!  We had such a long way to go!  If we went all the way down, we’d never make it back out of the canyon before dark.  We turned around and began the even longer hike back up the steep trail to the rim.

My life has been like that hike in ways.  At twenty-one, I was an angry young man with a headful of ideals that I was certain would fix what the preceding generations had messed up.  I wasn’t out to change the world;  I just wanted to “get it right” in one little church. 

I was opposed to heavy-handed tyrannical pastoral leadership.  I believed in careful and wise decisions made by a council of wise men who interacted patiently with each other.

I was opposed to the church being a business, always concerned about money and getting out of debt.  The church should be a people – a family, a community, a nation – and ministry should be personal and genuine – people truly loving and caring about others, using their God-given gifts to influence others to godliness, encouraging each other and correcting each other, if necessary;  a body of friends who want to be friends for a lifetime and taste God’s good gifts together.

I was opposed to viewing ministry as a sort of cookie-cutter machine, putting people into a program at one end and getting perfectly stamped “discipled Christians” who could spit out the right answers to easy questions on the other end.  Study, question, think – and do it together.  Work through hard questions;  don’t be afraid to say you don’t know.

I was opposed to clichés and cheap slogans and gimmicks – thermometers to raise money and little packs of gifts for visitors with pens that didn’t work but that had the church’s name on them.  That all seemed shallow to me, and I despised anything fake or that was mere veneer.  Christianity had to be genuine and sincere at every level, right down to the heart of it.

Those were some of the ideals that guided me and drove me.  After twenty years of labor, we had tasted a reasonable degree of success pursuing those ideals.  The church had thrived and grown;  it had come back from the brink of death.  I assumed that what worked with the little church and then with double services would continue to work with the big church when we all got together and began to fill the new building – built to handle almost double the number of the people we had in two services.

I had figured it all out.  Now all I had to do was coast.  That’s what I thought.

It had been a long twenty-year hike – and I was certain that I heard the river and that I had reached the bottom of the canyon.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Getting into the new building wasn’t the goal.  It was a little landing where I could catch my breath and catch sight of the bottom of the canyon, the river, still oh-so-far-away.  There was still plenty of arduous hiking to be done.  That was one lesson God intended to teach me as I launched into the second leg of my life’s journey.

The other was that my ideals didn't work as well as I thought they did.

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