I've been a follower of Jesus for 34 years now. I've seen the church go from "Flakes formula" to the "growth spiral", from "Masterlife" to "Eat This Book", from the Roman Road through EE, CWT, NET, and FAITH, and from program driven to purpose driven and beyond.
I remember when "God of Earth and Outer Space" crept into the hymnal, and when "Pass It On" was considered a real contemporary song. My hearing was affected by Petra, my heart by Dallas Holm, Don Francisco, and especially Keith Green.
My faith walk began with the Baptist Hymnal and a Schofield KJV, moved through a turtle green Living Bible, the NIV, and NASB, and now I've arrived at music lyrics projected on a screen and the NLT 2.0. We've never had so many resources. Need youth materials on dating? Five choices off the top of my head. Marriage? Dozens. Discipleship? Do you want printed or downloadable?
For the last few years, I've been fighting a creeping suspicion.
It ain't working.
By "It", I mean church as we have known it. We're not effective in making disciples. By disciples I mean people whose worldview is rooted and established in love of and fidelity to Jesus Christ. Is there growth in what we are doing? Sure. More people come to our worship. More people give to the ministry outreaches that we are doing more of than ever before. By all the numbers I should be a happy man. We've just baptized some new followers at the beach a few Sunday's ago and gave a testimony that the church is alive and active.
But I just don't see the steady progression in those I love and care for as a pastor. Not just those who haven't been Christians long, but even among some who have. They get distracted by the things of this world too often. Their children aren't growing deeper in relationship either, choosing the same fractional loyalties as their parents. They care about the wrong things. Their passions are aroused by trivialities.
Possibly it hasn't been working for a long time, I was just so busy working at it that I didn't notice.
So what to do?
I could do as some of my friends have done. I could leave the pastoral ministry in frustration. In just the past few years I have seen men with great talent and passion for God, trained at the best institutions leave the ministry and find secular employment. Why? Because they decided that if they couldn't change the church, they didn't want to be a part of failure. While I understand what they experienced, and believe that each had to do what they believed to be the right path, I cannot see that as valid for me. Just not who I am.
In the movie Tombstone, Val Kilmer plays Doc Holiday (a fellow Georgian). He greets a man who wants to get after the Earps by cutting him off and stepping in his way and saying, "I'll be your huckleberry."
I think it means "I'm ready for whatever you've got on your mind."
My love for Jesus is strong. My love for the people, and their stories who make up the rich fabric of congregational life has grown more and more in the last few years. I've been through the fire, I've gotten over the need for everyone to like me all the time. Life's too short and the stakes are too high. Push has come to shove. Change must come - again. It's time to reboot the church.
So if I was placed here for such a time as this...
yeah, I'll be your huckleberry.