Why we are leaving.
There is no easy way to leave a place you love. When God called Abraham to leave his home, it couldn’t have been easy. His family was there, his home, his father. Leaving is never easy, but God does not always call us to do what is easy.
Over a year ago God began working on my heart. Before an opportunity to leave even presented itself, God was challenging me to surrender my control to Him. You see, I really like to have control. I imagine you do as well. I like to know what is going to happen, how it is going to happen, and how I can make specific choices to get the outcome I want. But God has called us to walk by faith (2nd Corinthians 5:7) and that means not always understanding every detail.
In May of this year, an opportunity for a preaching position was suggested to me. As usual, Maci and I prayed over the opportunity, asking God if this is what He wanted. We typically take a week to pray it over and come back together to compare notes. Some opportunities take longer to consider, some it is obvious right away. The point here being, regardless of the opportunity, we always take time to pray and consider it. When this one came up, we kept to the same pattern. When we had compared notes we realized this was different than usual. God began to work on our hearts and minds and we kept coming back to the same conclusion “It might be time to leave”. For the record, this was before we knew the size of the church, the salary being offered, housing, what the town was like, or any other benefits that some might think would draw away. For us, this has never been about getting something we didn't already have, it has always been about what God is leading us towards. The more we prayed and looked for God’s leading the clearer it became this was right.
There is no bad situation that is forcing us to leave, no one person lobbying for our departure. It is quite the opposite. Rolling Meadows Christian Church has always taken care of our family. They have always encouraged, helped and blessed us in so many ways. With all the sincerity in our hearts, we want nothing but the best for RMCC and the amazing people here. It’s leaders are faithful and it’s future bright.
Rolling Meadows Christian Church has always been about one thing: Glorifying God with everything. It is a church full of genuine, honest people that want to know God and love others. It is rare to find a church that has that type of heart. It has been our greatest joy to be a part of the family here, and moving on will be one of our greatest sorrows. Even in that, we are convinced that God is leading, and we want to glorify Him with obedience. In the same manner, RMCC wants to glorify God, and through this, will continue to do just that.
So then Why leave?
#1. Because I believe it is what will be best; For me, my family, our church family at RMCC and for the kingdom of God. Maci and I would never consider leaving our family here if we were not completely convinced God was leading it. We love our community and our church too much to leave for anything less. RMCC has been my mission for the last 7 years. This is our home. We would never leave simply because we felt the grass was greener elsewhere. Our commitment has always been to “serve the kingdom of God” wherever that may be. And we want the best for His people.
#2. Because the doors have been kicked open by God. In every step God has shown us that “He has got it”. From the initial questioning “is it time to leave?” to the tougher questions “would we really leave?” God has opened every single door for us to step through. He has shown me that He loves His church more than I ever could, He has a plan for His local church in Odessa that is better than I could ever concoct. He has shown me that if He is leading me away, that means He has already prepared something even greater for RMCC. The doors have been opened for our departure, I know that they will be wide open for the future of RMCC
#3. Because a change can be healthy. When change happens, we are forced to grow. I have felt it in my life, I have seen it already in our church. Leaders that have stepped up, prayers that have intensified, and action taking place that has been needed for a while. Change is never easy, but it is an excellent conduit for growth. I have needed it in my own life and I believe the church will benefit from it as well. As long as change is initiated by God, it will always lead to spiritual growth. It is clear to us that this change has been stamped by God, we trust that it will lead to positive spiritual growth not only for us but for our family here at Rolling Meadows Christian Church.
I know this does not answer every question about our decision, that is not my goal. I want to impress upon you two things: First, wherever God leads, He prepares a way. Second, you can trust in His leading. With your own life, with your local church and with the body of Christ, wherever God is leading, He will prepare a way. You can trust that He will sustain, grow, strengthen and use you to His glory, if you are willing to trust in Him.
My family and I are stepping out on faith. We pray that you will be challenged to do the same.
A response to Charlottesville
In the aftermath of the horrendous attack in Charlottesville, Virginia there have been so many different responses; most of which are heartfelt and sincere. I, like everyone else, have been taking in all these responses, trying to make sense of it all. It is difficult to understand the division, the frustrations, all the opinions and politics involved in the tweets, Facebook posts, news coverages and reports we have seen these last few days. It is difficult because there are strong opinions anywhere you look. Some responses want to place blame and dish out responsibility, others want to express rage and hatred and still others just want to use another awful event for political posturing. Through it all my stomach has churned and my mind has raced asking the question “what do I think about it all”. More importantly, As a Christ follower, how should I respond. I feel it is important to highlight certain truths about this event that help me in my response.
#1. Any tragedy should be met with large amounts of compassion and love. If your first response to the death of Heather Heyer and the injuries of many others is to defend your political stance or attack any specific group, you have lost sight of the compassion of Jesus. A mother lost a daughter, a father will never get to hug his baby girl again. Our hearts should break at the loss, pain and heartache that many people will continue to feel for a long time. Jesus showed us this time and time again. When he witnessed, experienced or even came across a tragic event, he responded with compassion and love. The gospels highlight how Jesus was “moved with compassion” many times. One in particular I would like you to see. It’s in Luke 7. Jesus didn’t stop and say, “now what Synagogue did they attend? Did they tithe? Was this young man doing something he shouldn’t have been? No Jesus saw a widowed woman in pain, suffering the loss of her future, her protection, provision and most importantly, her only son, and His response was compassion.
#2. The organizers of the Unite the Right rally were there to do more than protest the removal of a statue. I have seen many prominent figures write about the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and how all this would have been avoided if the city didn't mess with the statue. It would be ignorant to believe this was the cause of the rally. It might have been the cause of the time and place, but the statue removal was merely an excuse to gather. If you have followed the alt-right media, and language, you know. Many participating in the rally marched to the Rotunda chanting, “You will not replace us.” The white supremacist joining the rally shouted phrases like “blood and soil,” “Charlottesville is our city now.” On their own website they have posted an article recounting the rally. “While greater numbers in and of itself warrants celebration, there’s something much more significant at work here and we realized it in Charlottesville. We are no longer afraid.” No longer afraid to be vocal, blatant and open about their belief in white supremacy. Only an ignorant person would make this about a statue. It is about the belief that one “Race” (which is simply subjective and rather silly to call white people their own race) is superior to another. This rally was about the belief that one person is inferior to another simply because of how they look. The Unite the Right Rally was just another step in the open racism, bigotry and white supremacy movement. When Christians, or any other well meaning group of people, try to make what happened about a statue they are missing the larger picture.
#3. We should be quick to condemn the white supremacist movement. Most christians that I interact with are white americans. It is my responsibility as a white american to vocally deny any notion that God supports a white supremacist movement. Our nation has literally fought in wars to combat the notion that one one color is better than another. World war II showed us what the silence against racism and bigotry can produce. We have seen the horrors and atrocities committed when an entire group of people are treated as less than human. There is certainly not “multiple sides” when it comes to an alt-right, white supremacist ideology and beliefs. If there was any truth to their beliefs, Jesus Himself would be considered less than human, being a middle eastern Jew. Every christian should be quick, concise and clear in joining the majority of Americans in condemning this movement.
#4. Hate cannot be overcome with more hate, evil will never be defeated with evil. Love is the only thing that will change a heart. You do not have to look far in the bible to find strong commands to resist hatred and pursue love. 1st John 2:9-17, Ephesians 4:31, Proverbs 8:13-25, Psalms 97:10 are just a handful of passages that express this sentiment. Reason, logic and debate are good. Discussion, conversations and engaging in dialogue is imperative. But in the end, it is acts of love that change a person’s heart. Isn’t that what we want? For hearts to be changed? For someone who is filled with hurt, hate and arrogance to have a change of heart? Is that not the goal of many activists and advocates? If only we could embrace and live out the belief that all peoples’ are created equal and deserve respect and decency. That will not happen unless a heart is changed. A racist grandpa does not magically become accepting of his black neighbor, a homophobic preacher does not all of the sudden treat the gay community with kindness unless a heart is changed. And no argument, no well written manifesto, no facebook rant, no creative video, no article, no well meaning logical explanation, no passionate debate will ever change their mind, until the heart is first moved. Oh how I wish we could see and understand this truth. The heart must be moved, it must be reached, it must be carefully and intentionally catered to before the mind is ever prepared to change. We saw the opposite of this in Charlottesville. The Antifa group along with anti-protest protesters were there with the goal of opposing the alt-right by any means, including violence. What did they accomplish? By no means did they cause the murder of Heather Heyer (see #5) but what good did they accomplish? Did they change any minds, convict any viewers, convert any nazis? Not that I saw. It was a battle. Two sides dug in their trenches willing to fight to the end. This didn’t lead to change - it led to violence. So let me ask you, what have you done to reach the heart of the person you disagree with? What have you done to extend love to those you would label “the enemy”? You see, many of us could pinpoint the last debate we engaged in. Many of us could locate the last article we posted, the last convincing video we shared with someone - but very few can illustrate an act of love towards those they disagree with. I guess arguing is much easier (and seemingly safer) than action. Jesus always engaged in pursuing the heart of an individual before challenging them to change their mind. Even with difficult religious hypocrites, Jesus attempted to reach their hearts. This is why Jesus’ followers will be known by the way they love one another. We must be committed to showing love to one another, regardless of opinions and disagreements. Maybe that means leaving a bigger tip to someone you might not like, maybe it means giving up your spot in line to someone you wouldn’t normally help, maybe that means going out of your way to consider others as more important than yourself - whatever it may be, acts of love and grace are effective in changing the heart. And when a heart is changed, the mind is soon to follow.
#5. No one person, group, party or president led James Alex Fields Jr. to drive his car into a group of people. The decision to murder another human being is one that comes from evil itself. It is what Paul referred to in Romans as a depraved mind. A mind that has been given over to self and sin. A mind that is deprived of truth and goodness, decency and morality. In his head, he must have thought what he was doing was, in some way, noble. Maybe it was getting back at “That group” he hated. Maybe he thought “they” deserved it. Yes you can point to the rhetoric of the president and his cabinet, yes you can point to the hate and evil encouraged in the alt right movement, yes you can point to the division and anger of the Atifa groups and anti protestors, yes you can point to the tearing down of historical monuments and the attempt to eradicate certain parts of history that is offensive, yes you can point to the media and the bias and tilted coverage, yes, yes, yes! Any one side can pick their line of arguments and debate to the bitter end. But ultimately, it is the evil of sin that James Fields Jr. chose. It is the ugly result of a depraved mind. It is the sad and tragic reality of the world that we live in. And it is what breaks my heart. Truly James’ words ring true “And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death”. While many Christians are quick to argue politics, defend their personal views and try and convince other Christians who have opposing views that “their view is the correct one and everyone would be better off if they would all agree with them” - we have missed the evil that is at play here.
My heart still is uneasy and saddened by what we saw. My mind is still scattered and there are many things left to discuss. But I pray that we, as Christians, will be slow to speak and quick to understand. I pray that we will seek wisdom and show it by our good behavior and deeds. I pray that we seek peace, gentleness, reason and mercy. I pray that we never let being comfortable keep us from doing what is right.
Some scattered thoughts:
- For all my friends who are upset about the tearing down of statues: A quick history lesson will show that this is not an uncommon thing (whether right or wrong). Also, most of my friends who oppose the tearing down of monuments are big supporters of smaller government and letting the states decide what they want to do. Well, Charlottesville did decide. The leaders of the city legally decided to remove the statue. Whether you like the decision or not, isn't that the process you want? States to have the freedom to choose? Why does it bother you so much?
- To the Neo-Nazi: The images that came out from that night are horrendous. And while many people think our nation has taken steps backwards in Racism and bigotry - I am encouraged at the reaction of the majority of the population. The majority of America was appalled. And that is good. The nation saw that this type of racism and hatred is still alive and trying to kick and the majority of America was disgusted. And that is good. The alt right might think this was a step forward for them, I think it just showed everyone how awful, backwards and wrong they are.
- To the Christian: Please, please, please, read, listen and think. Inequality, racism, bigotry; these are all things that we must be adamantly opposing. I agree that how and where will very for every person, but we must all be working towards creating more peace, embracing diversity and change, and cultivating communities that are loving towards everyone.