Leah, a servant of God, to the Young Adults of First United Methodist Church in Winfield, KS (and, the part Paul forgot, to anyone else who might read this):
Grace and peace to you.
We’ve been together for almost three years now, which means you officially know too much about me— that I’m intense and loud and that the thoughts in my head inevitably spew out of my mouth for better or worse. Although inseparable, I’m not as quick to share what’s in my heart. (To be fair, it stands no chance; my head is the louder of the two.)
I hope you know that it’s YOU. YOU are my heart. Jesus and my family and YOU. I hope you know how much I care about you. About our life together.
And it’s only taken me this long, but I’m wising up to a few things about you too:
You are inundated with opportunity, over-marketed to, and overwhelmed with invitations to all manner of things. So much so that you just can’t pay them any attention. I don’t blame you; it’s all too much. Therefore, you just aren’t going to one. more. thing. I’ve figured out that we don’t need to do MORE things; we need to do BETTER things. What we spend our time and energy on needs to be worth our one life.
You want to understand God and life and the world. There is a lot of gray here, mystery even, which makes you both uncomfortable and relieved.
You want to love God and people well. But this world, and sometimes even the Church, complicates it. It can seem impossible.
Your focus is on getting through today—the job you may or may not love, the young family you are trying to raise, the details and exhaustion of it all. But you wonder about your future too, especially if it will be fulfilling.
In short: You want your life to matter.
Turns out we’re a good match, you all and me, because that’s all I’ve ever wanted too.
Before I go any further, there’s something I need to make sure you know: I LOVE the Church. (Yes, FUMC Winfield. But I mean the Church universal.) It has been one of the most stable things in my life. It still is. It has supported me and helped to raise me. It has been (mostly) good to me. Unlike many of you, I’ve not been wronged or scarred by it. At least not badly. At least not yet. I happen to know some of your stories about Church. I can’t believe you are still here, but I’m thrilled that you are. You are so brave.
Perhaps the greatest disservice the Church has ever done me is to lose sight of the main thing. Because you guys: I HAVE LITERALLY BEEN HERE ALL THIRTY YEARS OF MY LIFE AND AM JUST NOW STARTING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD CARES ABOUT. So while I don’t take personal issue with the Church, I do take theological, namely how much of our resources—time, energy, gifts, money—we waste on what doesn’t matter.
I don’t think God cares if our worship is contemporary, traditional, blended, or ancient-future. And I don’t think God cares if you know what that means.
I don’t think God cares if we call ourselves United Methodist. (It’s hard for even me to believe I just said that.)
I don’t think God cares if we don’t have faith all figured out.
And, PAY ATTENTION: I don’t think God cares if we have a float in the Christmas Parade. You heard me.
Want to know what I DO think God cares about? This:
The only thing I think God really cares about is the health of our souls and the integrity of our witness. And did you know that they are the same thing? Our very lives—this is what the rest of the world will see of God. This is how they will understand and experience God. They will know of God what we show them. And we will show them what we know of God.
This is it, my friends. The whole vision is just these three things. And excuse my language, but everything else is just crap. Crap that we don’t have to do anymore. Anything other than the vision is exhausting, but the vision itself is fulfilling. Is this as much a relief to you as it is to me? We are freed up to do better things.
Of course, there’s a catch: While we don’t have to do anything but this, we do have to do entirely this. We don’t get to pick which of the three we like best and avoid the other two. We need all three to be faithful. This is not a multiple choice question; it’s an all of the above answer.
If we only have Teaching, we are just intellectual.
If we only have Relationships, we are just popular.
If we only have Mission, we are just busy.
No, God made us to be integrated wholes—a head, a heart, and hands in agreement. Souls in harmony with God, self, and others. I want our heads to think and our hearts to feel. And then I want the synergy between the two to flow out through our hands. And I want to do this with you. Together. Because that’s the Good Life. Knowing God and making God known comes with struggle, but also lots of fulfillment.
You know how Caleb and I poke fun at our oppositeness and the conflict it creates in our marriage? Well, let me be the first to say it’s also precisely why we work. You see, I specialize in vision, in ideal, in theory. Caleb, not so much. But he intrinsically gets how the world works, which I know nothing about. I can’t apply to save my life, but that’s all Caleb does. He’s apply guy. I guess you could say that I am the brains and he is the braun. (Although Caleb is definitely more brains than I am braun.) My point is that Caleb is vital to this vision. But so are you. You have ideas and gifts and passions and uniqueness of your own. We can’t do this without you.
As Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry, this is my commitment to you: If it doesn’t help us to BElieve, BElong, and BEcome; if it doesn’t transform our Head, Heart, and Hands; if it falls outside the realm of Right Teaching, Deep Relationships, and Missional Living, then WE WILL NOT DO IT. We just can’t afford to be bogged down with lesser things. Our life and our witness is everything, and it’s at stake. I ask you and urge you—will you commit to this? Will you keep showing up to Church for this?
Finally, some words from the Real Apostle Paul. Because let’s face it, I’ll never write better ones: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)
See you Sunday,