God brought me here going on eleven years ago to pastor a church named New Hope. My dream was to come and live among a group of people for the rest of my ministry. To stay here long enough, and to go through life together enough for Bunny, me, and Sean to be adopted into the family of believers that were already here. That happened a few years back, and since then we've grown together as family. We're an average sized church for the Southern Baptist Convention. Students of church growth would identify us as a "family-sized" congregation which carries the idea that we know each other well enough to know when one of us is missing or hurting. Doesn't mean we're all related by blood.
But then again, it does.
All of us are sinners who were saved through grace thanks to the blood of a sinless Savior shed for us.
I love my family fiercely. Whatever the time day or night, I am there for them, offering my heart and whatever else I can bring to the point of need. They have done the same for us. Didn't come immediately upon my arrival here, though I had the position of pastor right away. But as I have seen them hurt, seen them laugh, seen their tears, shared their joy, helped with their trials and shared life - New Hope is my family.
Was reading Shaun Groves' blog today. Shaun's got a great heart for the least of these and mad skills as a singer songwriter and ambassador for Compassion. He captured what being part of a church family like New Hope is all about.
Around Jesus that day was a ragtag group of followers who shared a common purse. Judas was the treasurer. Money went in. Money was shared. But more than cash, the group shared life – dust filled walks with the Rabbi, fish for breakfast on a lake’s shore, narrow escapes from angry mobs, blind men seeing.
They shared it all.
Jesus didn’t ask the rich official to give all and then live a lonely miserable life. He asked the man to give all and join a community that would give him all of themselves.
“Then come, follow me.”That kind of intimacy can't be "programmed" or ordered from the latest Outreach catalog. You can't download it from Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll or the like. It acknowledges needs, flaws, and failures - and embraces them in a way that redeems them. It always hopes for and believes the best for each other, but doesn't run away when things go bad. It stays and prays - stays and works - stays in anticipation of what God is going to do next through us.
All it asks for - is all of you. Just as you are. Not the "let me clean up and put on my happy church face" you. The one that has doubts and fears. The one with the kid problems, marriage issues, that struggles with finances and relationships. The needy, sinful, everyday - you. And I can not imagine living life any other way.
For me, family matters.