Hemingway wagered: Write a novel in six words. He shared his own response on a cocktail napkin: For sale: Baby shoes, never worn. Six words that can bring you to tears. Powerful stuff.
I can't write a novel in six words, nor a memoir. For a couple of years I've been recording a nonfiction piece I call Broken Heart: Fixing Your Heart in Christ's Home. But I haven't been able to finish it, because I've been working on other people's work and projects that are a little more pressing. It was born out of struggle, an internal wrestling match that I could not settle. Full of essential questions each believer asks.
What if He really loves me?
What does that mean, and how does that belief inform or transform my life?
As a new believer, I didn't understand why I needed to hide God's word in my heart.
I didn't understand what to expect from my new pastor, or what he might expect from me.
I didn't understand that I was meant to be a part of a church family, and that the community called "church" could be as complicated as my intimate circle of loved ones.
I didn't understand that a church could wound, and a church could heal.
I didn't understand that I could be trained, prepared, and equipped under the cross.
New believers cannot and should not be ignorant for long. Beneath the stepping stones of this spiritual journey, we must begin to understand the bedrock divinity of who we are as Christians, and who we are meant to be.
Precious little conversion growth is happening in Western populations today. Experts estimate as little as 1-3%. We can traipse to Africa, send missionaries to Belize, reach the lost in Haiti, and these are all powerfully important. But there are unbelievers in our midst, and I'm writing for them. And for me.
There is a huge demographic of believers who will not trust the church. They make a conscious choice to stay away. I believe this occurs because we may not understand our rights, but also our responsibilities as believers.
While we understand that love wins, it's an oversimplification to think that love is all there is, or that nothing is required of us. God will welcome us with arms wide open, but can we live in such away that we are more deeply concerned about His opinion of us, than what the world thinks? His expectations override our own.
Some estimates tell us that 84% of Americans are not attending a conventional church, and 80% of the churches in North America have reached a plateau or are declining. Churches experiencing rapid growth are, for the most part, growing due to "switchers", folks who get tired, turned off, or transplanted, and must find a new place to call home. Many churches focus on what the church must provide the switcher, the unchurched, the undiscipled.
I want to speak my "give me Jesus truth" in a "gimme gimme world." To receive Him is to love Him, and I believe I owe Him something in return.
I'll share two or three pieces a week...my prayer is that God will bless you richly along the way, but more than that, you will learn to richly bless Him with the sacred and sacramental love you offer, in everything you do.
After all, He loved us first.