Why I’m Grateful for the Body

Last week, my six-year-old son got sick.  More sick than I’ve ever seen any of my kids.  For six days he would get extremely painful headaches and vomit everything he ate.  I’m sure you could imagine how awful it is to watch the most energetic, fun, happy little boy become tired, dehydrated, and unable to play because of the pain he was in.

Our family physician was out of town so we took him to another doctor in the same office.  She was absolutely no help what-so-ever.  She ignored my wife’s concerns about the headaches and vomiting, made a crack about the fact that we home school, wrote him a prescription for an antibiotic, and sent him home without so much as a blood test.

The next day, he got so bad that we decided to take him to the emergency room.  He was in extreme pain, was lethargic, and hadn’t been able to hold down any food or liquid.  There he received great care from the hospital staff.  They were very concerned about his condition and the looks on their faces made me realize this was more than simply an ear infection or the flu.  They did a spinal tap to rule out meningitis and a CT scan to check for abnormalities in his brain.  It was so difficult to see my little guy laying there with an IV, barely conscious from the powerful pain medication.  We were scared!

So what does all of this have to do with the Body of Christ?  They prayed.  Our good friends at the Quad Cities Prayer Center sprang into action by notifying their network of hundreds of prayer warriors.  Our small group leader came to the hospital to bring some balloons for Hudson.  Our good friends watched our other two boys so that my wife and I could stay by our youngest’s side until he could go home.  Friends called, texted, and Facebook messaged us to get updates and let us know they were praying.

It didn’t stop with people we know though.  Great people from my Twitter community made it a point to re-tweet my situation to get more people interceding.  They left me messages to let me know they were praying.  These are people I’ve never met face to face, but care enough to take my cares to Jesus.  AMAZING!  I’m totally honored to belong to a Body like that, and extremely grateful for all of their prayers.

It doesn’t end with my son’s illness either.  God has used His people to be there for us in so many ways and on so many occasions.  Seven months ago, our ministry took an unexpected turn and, rather than running for security, we decided to take a step of faith and launch something new.  Time after time He has used his people to bless us when we didn’t know how we’d make it another week.  Even the computer I’m writing this post with was a blessing from a brother in Jesus.

It makes me think about the picture on this post.  Life is such a challenge sometimes.  We never know when we’re going to hit rapids, rocks, or other dangers as we navigate through it.  It’s such a comfort to know that there are others in the boat with you and, as we paddle together, we can look out for each other, work together, and lend each other strength when we need it.  What a great picture of the Body of Christ! (Romans 12:4-8)

As for my son, he’s home now and feeling much better.  He has kept everything down for the last two days and the headaches are becoming less frequent and less severe.  A little while ago I saw him dragging large sheets of cardboard up from the basement.  He said he wants to turn his bedroom door into a drawbridge.  I love that kid!

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A Gated Community Known as Church

Next month I’m putting on a free workshop for pastors and ministry leaders on how to use social networking in ministry.  I believe that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc. can be great free resources for churches wanting to strengthen community and communications.  I’m so excited about this workshop that I even spent a few bucks on print materials that I can hand out to pastors when I invite them.

Last Monday I decided to drive around town and personally invite pastors to the event.  You know, hand them a flier, shake their hand, meet some of our community’s spiritual leaders.  It sounded like fun and my son, Hudson, decided to get dressed up and go with me.  It was going to be a great father and son time and we were both looking forward to it.  However, the afternoon ended up quite a disappointment.

I have to admit how surprised I was by how nay churches were totally inaccessible.  Some were empty and lifeless.  Empty parking lots, lights off, nobody home.  Even worse, some had cars and lights but all the doors were locked!  No bell and no answer to knocks on the door.  As bad as that was, there was a far worse scenario.

We walked up to one large church in a fine part of town.  Hudson had his shoulder bag of invitations and I was looking forward to meeting this pastor because I had driven past his church so many times.  The first door was unlocked, great!  The second door, however, was locked.  I had to push a button to get someone’s attention.  One of the office staff peered out at us through bullet-proof glass and asked why we were there.  I told her we wanted to invite their pastor to a free workshop.  She buzzed us in and we stepped into an area where there was another window and more bullet-proof glass.  There was an office area and multiple staff were working diligently behind the safety of the glass.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt that uncomfortable.  They looked at us like we had lobsters coming out of our ears! It was obvious that unfamiliar faces weren’t welcome there outside the context of church services.  The woman opened a small part of the window so I could slide her an invitation, then immediately closed it back up again.  She had no interest in what I had to say and couldn’t even spare a smile for Hudson.  If they treated us that way, I don’t even want to think about how a homeless person or a refugee would be treated.

The hardest part of our outing?  When my six-year-old son asked me why no pastors would talk to us.  When he asked why the ladies weren’t very nice, and why all the doors were locked.  Even a child knows that a church should be a warm place.  It should be a place where people are welcomed and accepted.  It should be that way every day, not just Sunday!  And now I found myself in the position of explaining that the church really is good and does mean well.  Not an easy task when I had the same taste in my mouth that he did.

Unfortunately, many churches have become more like gated communities than churches.  Security is in place to keep out the undesirables, the needy, the solicitors, and the just plain unfamiliar.  Suspicious of unknown faces, they’re treated with a cold reception and a short response.  Heaven forbid someone should come in and interrupt the pastor’s sermon preparation or keep the secretary from getting the bulletin together.  Am I wrong to believe that the church is about people everyday (not just Sunday)?

Defined core values have been a big part of church leadership these days.  Often times, they’re posted on web sites and printed in bulletins.  Statements like “Prayer, Evangelism, God’s Word, and Worship are our core values” are made.  I’ve got a suggestion because I’ve yet to see this as a posted core value.  How about “People”? How about “People are important to us because they bare the image of God, because they are dearly loved by God, and because Jesus didn’t die for a building, a sermon, a program, or a ministry.  He died for people.  Not just people who attend our church or share our beliefs, but all people.  Because “People” is one of Jesus’ core values, then “People” will be one of our core values too.  Even on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

I know it feels like a risk, but let’s get rid of the gated community mentality and be the church every day.  Open the doors.  Welcome the stranger.  See love spread.

Not Welcomed

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Furnace Friday Nights

Every Friday night I have the privilege of leading a community-wide prayer meeting for young adults. It’s the highlight of my week to watch young people praise and cry out to God for their city!

Last night I decided to snap a few pictures to share. Enjoy!





Invisible Dancer

Every Friday night I lead a community prayer meeting for college-aged young people.  It’s often times a powerful experience of praising God and crying out to Him for our homes, our community, and the next generation.  There’s something about being surrounded by all that raw passion, as the praise team plays and the group unashamedly demonstrates their love for God, that I never get tired of.

A few weeks ago, a young girl came to the meeting and introduced herself to me.  As we talked, she explained to me how she really loves God but felt awkward with outward demonstrations of praise. It was unnatural for her to lift her hands, dance, and shout.  I told her that was OK and that there was nothing wrong with giving praise to God in a quiet manner.

Tonight, at our meeting, I felt a particular leading from the Holy Spirit that He wanted to do a work of freedom in the group.  The majority of our meetings are very outward focused as we intercede for the community and our nation, but tonight was different.  God wanted to do something in us.  There was shame, guilt, addiction, and other chains that needed to be broken so we could go out from there and help set others free.

During our time of praise, I caught something in my peripheral vision.  Around the corner, out of sight from most of the people in the room, was the young girl I met a few weeks ago.  And she was dancing!  As the praise team played, “Halleluia, Halleluia, King of Kings, Lord of Lords I am yours”  She was swaying to music with her hands in the air and her face lit up with redemption!  I looked and knew she was experiencing the love of the one who loves like no other.  It was her and The Savior and all else was strangely dim.

What a beautiful thing to see The King dancing with His daughter.  I have to admit, it inspired me.  Where, in my friendship with Jesus, could I benefit from stepping out of my comfort zone?  And what a stirring I felt to experience His intimate touch.

So thanks Invisible Dancer.  You helped me experience God tonight, even as you experienced Him in a new way!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, a lot of people were set free tonight from the things I mentioned earlier.  It was awesome!