For the past two Sunday mornings at Calvary, Danny has opened the microphone to anyone who would like to share their thoughts on the big transitions that are being made. Prior to Saturday night, I wasn’t planning on saying anything. But then I read some C.S. Lewis, a little bit of Scripture, and found myself writing several paragraphs about what’s most important for the members of Calvary.
It’s been tough to wrestle with what’s happening and how it’s so very different from what I’ve envisioned for Calvary’s future. I had hoped – quite selfishly – that Danny would still be preaching come this time next year and that we would have somehow improved our finances enough to hire on another person or two for full time ministry (myself included). And maybe, by some miracle, those things will still happen. But, as I talked about in my last post, those daydreams are gone.
What, then, is to replace them? That’s what I’ve been figuring out – or at least trying to. Does it mean I go with the flow of the new leadership and just see what happens? Does it mean I move on to a different group of believers – a different church – for a while? When we ask ourselves these kinds of questions, there’s usually one that gets overlooked: What does God want me to do?
When I spoke to the congregation Sunday morning, I shared what I believe to be the most important thing for every member: What are your own personal convictions and where are they leading you? Even after sharing this, though, I’ve been met with more questions and anxieties about my own future and what it looks like. What if everyone I’ve known and loved from Calvary suddenly left? What if I was one of the only ones to remain – if I were to remain? What would keep me there? What would draw me elsewhere?
If there is ever one question the gospels leave a reader with (especially the gospel of Mark), it’s this: Who is Jesus? And if there ever was one question the epistles leave us with it’s this: What does He mean to you?
“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God,” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
If Jesus is a liar, then we can fault Him for trying to mislead and forget everything He ever said. If He’s a lunatic, then we can ignore Him altogether. But if He’s Lord and God, then we have some serious, life-altering decisions to make: Do we follow Him – even if He leads us where we do not want to go? It could be overseas, across the country, on the other side of town, or, ironically, to the very place we’ve been coming for years. If we decide that He is in fact Lord and God, then what will make the difference as to where we go is what He tells us.
“If He isn’t there, why stay? And if He is there, why go anywhere else?” my friend, Joe Tepe, asked me this morning over a cup of coffee. And I believe this question sums up exactly what I was getting at Sunday morning and exactly what God has been trying to teach me ever since: He is a personal God who went entirely out of His way to make Himself known to us when He could have left us alone. In the same way, He could leave us to fend for ourselves, but that’s not the God He is. He will speak to us as long as we are willing to listen.
Moving forward for many congregations whose churches go through the kinds of changes that Calvary is going through beckons two questions in one: What do you believe about Jesus and how does that affect your life? Do you move forward with the faith that He’s still speaking, moving, and writing our stories? Or do you doubt everything and run away from it all?
No matter what I decide to do, I must follow God and what He’s beckoning me to do. Danny isn’t resigning as head pastor because he’s suddenly lost faith; he’s moving forward because he has every bit of it. Neither he nor any one of us really knows what it looks like, but we know it’s there and we must respond accordingly. And if we’ve ever learned anything from Danny’s messages and lifestyle it’s to live out our personal convictions from God. Danny may be considered a heretic to many other Christians, but at least he’s lived out his convictions. At least he’s lived his life above reproach.
No matter where God leads each of us, we must do the same.
P.S. For anyone who has ever been influenced by Danny and his teaching over the years, his last sermon is this Sunday. Service starts at 10 am and gets out usually around 11:20 or 11:30. If for no other reason, please come and send him off with the farewell that he, Craig Leonard, and their families deserve. 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The O’Neils and Leonards have never failed in displaying this kind of love.