Thursday, August 05, 2021

Classic: What's Your Name Again?

This post was originally written in January 2000 - I've substantially revised multiple times... including today.

May of 1983... outside my dorm (Penland Hall) on the last day of my freshman year at Baylor University. I'm trying to burn off the end of a roll of film before I hop a shuttle bus to D/FW airport and my plane home for the summer. I happen on a guy from 2nd floor who's loading his car... and, for some bizarre reason, ask to take his picture.

Tim (the aforementioned guy) tells me now that he wondered what kind of idiot would take a picture of someone he hardly knew. I just kept thinking that I could get the roll developed quicker if I used up the film. So, I've got this odd picture of a guy standing against his Berlinetta in a parking lot with a very quizzical look on face... as if to say, "Hurry up and take your stupid picture... I want to start driving home."

Fast forward to June of 1990... on the platform of Shady Oaks Baptist Church where I'm waiting in my tux for Shari to appear. Standing next to me is that same guy - Tim Formby, my best man.

Fast forward again to October of 1996... in a hotel room in Forrest City, Arkansas. After a night of boardgaming, Tim and I stay up late discussing the ideas & dreams that will become the church @ hickory hollow.

And I've still got that crazy picture of him... and it reminds me that none of us know what role people will end up playing in our lives. We don't have a clue. (And that ought to cause us to think twice about how live out what we believe in front of 'strangers'... hmmm.)

Of course, I've got to belabor my point for just a moment... every person you meet is an "eternal being" (in other words, they will live forever, either with God or without Him). Simply put: you have never met an "average" person... each one of us matters to God. It's about time we started living like it... waiters, checkers, the guy in the next cubicle, friends, the girl who drives like a maniac... all of them... an eternal being. Wow. (Credits to C.S. Lewis for putting this idea in my head.)

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. (C.S. Lewis from The Weight of Glory)

I think that's true of churches, too. Chances are pretty good you didn't know what to expect when you walked in the doors of the church you attend. Oh, sure, you can read the website & look at the promotional materials, but that isn't the same as being smack dab in the middle of the experience.

Chances are also pretty good that your impression of your church has changed... some for the worse, some for the better. I've had both experiences - the stunning realization that there's a group of people who love Jesus and will live that out in how they pray for you, care for you, and just show up in the midst of grief and pain... and the thundering disappointment when fear and frustration convinces people into abandoning their beliefs in the interest of "making the church healthy again".

But, with all that, here's what I'd love for you to do... take a minute & ponder this statement: you've never been in an "average" church.

Really. Think about it! If none of us are average people - if we're each special, created with purpose & destiny, then the churches we are a part of are stuffed full of non-average people. And those churches are filled to the brim with purpose & destiny!

Now, your church may not feel like that this weekend. That doesn't mean it's not true - it just means it could be buried under a load of other junk: useless traditions, outdated methods, cultural imperatives that mask the truth of the Gospel. So it's time for you to start a revolution - to value each person in each pew (or chair or couch or whatever) as people created by God who have the potential to change not only your life but the lives of people around the world.

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