A Dangerous Thing to Do
Apparently teaching through the Book of Acts is a dangerous thing for a preacher to do. Now I know.
This fall we've been engaging this book of early church history, as we live into our mission, "Inviting all people to grow into a Christ-centered life in God's family." As we've seen, Jesus' followers are called to take God's good news to the ends of the earth, despite the man-made barriers that seem to separate us from one another and those thirsting for the good news of God's love.
Week in and week out we've seen how the Holy Spirit calls followers of Jesus out of their comfort zones to engage with those of different religious backgrounds, ethnicities, and social economic statuses. This is vitally important for us if we are to "invite all people"!
And here's why preaching through Acts is dangerous: This week God has challenged me to see if I actually believe what I’ve been preaching in sermons and writing in our sermon-based study guides.
Some of you know I have been traveling back-and-forth to Pasadena this week, where I am auditing a doctoral seminar called Visionary Leadership for the Church with author Will Mancini and Pastor Rich Kannwischer, formerly of St. Andrews, Newport Beach. And since the drive to get there by 8am would take two hours, I've been spending that two hours on the metro instead of in traffic.
That's where God's challenge took place.
Early Tuesday morning, before I'd even had coffee, I was stumbling through Union Station, when I noticed a young man sitting on a skateboard weeping loudly. Immediately I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit beckon: "Inviting all people to grow into a Christ-centered life in God's family? He seems like an 'all people.' He seems like he needs God's family."
And just like in Acts, some of those earthly barriers were present: He was younger than me, of a different ethnicity, presumably living in inner-city LA, and wearing a T-shirt that boldly celebrated marijuana.
And standing on that platform I didn't go talk to him. I thought maybe we'd have a chance on the train. Once inside, however, he sat at the other end of the car. "Well, maybe God has someone else in mind to talk to him," I reasoned. Then, apropos of nothing, he got up from the far end of the train and walked toward me, carrying his skateboard with him, and sat down immediately across from me.
Still noticeably crying, I began to engage him in conversation. After learning of challenges he's experiencing in his living situation, I pointed him to Jesus, who brings safety and security in and through the family of God. When I asked his name, he said he rather not share it. But he did give me permission to pray for him.
To be honest, I'm a bit embarrassed that I was so hesitant to practice what I preach. And yet I knew I had to share this story with you, especially when, during the lecture in class that day one of the professors said, "The greatest thing you can do as a leader is admitting where you don’t live up to your value system." So here I am, admitting that I don’t live up to my value system. See? Preaching through Acts is dangerous.
May we together recognize the ways we don’t live up to our value system and together live into our mission statement:
Inviting all people to grow into a Christ-centered life in God’s family.
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