I always wonder what famous and talented people are like behind the scenes, especially Christian people. Most people do, thus the popularity of so many reality shows featuring prominent people (or formerly prominent - now 'washed up former tv star from the 70's' is an entire career category). I got to see a couple last weekend. I'm here to tell you, Don Miller ( www.donmilleris.com ) is the real deal and so is Mike Farris ( www.mikefarrismusic.com ).
Don has become well-known as the writer of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, opening pray-er at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, speaker at all sorts of new-style ministry events, producer of the upcoming movie this April, Blue Like Jazz. A few different times through the years now, I've had the pleasure of being with Don behind the scenes. And here's what I discovered - you know that humble, funny, quirky, theologically-edgy, prophetic/insightful voice of his that comes through in his writing and speaking? That's actually who Don is. Except higher on the 'humble' and 'let's talk about you not me' part when he's not 'on' and in the spotlight. He's the real deal as a follower of Jesus.
Ditto Mike Farris. A multiple-award winning musician who blends rock, blues and old time gospel, this guy is not just accomplished, he has a gift that stands on its own two feet and shouts to the world. That joy, urgency, and ecstatic enjoyment of the LORD he exhibits on stage? That's exactly who he is in person too. I walked into our green room to welcome him last Thursday night, and within 30 seconds he pulled me deep into conversation about two books he's been reading and what the Spirit of God is doing in hearts in this country. He's also a very humble man, generous in sharing his own struggles with life and faith.
This morning I was thanking God for the faithfulness of these men, and the genuineness of their lives lived out loud for Jesus. Since Jim and Tammy Bakker and their ilk all flamed out meteorically and publicly in the late 80's (dammit! sorry, that's what I think every time I remember all that and the depressing conversations about faith it led to in my fraternity), our culture has turned consistently cynical toward faith leaders. With good reason. Christians even have been sickeningly emboldened to believe lies of the evil one, because of public failures of leaders, that 'church' and 'leaders' (although biblical) are bad words and should be jettisoned for something new that is 'emerging.' So I love to see and celebrate Christian leaders with integrity (not perfection).
Then I got to thinking - that actually describes 95% (maybe 99%, but I don't want to exaggerate) of the Christian leaders I've ever known, including non-professional Christian leaders in the churches I've served. Mitch White (Pastor of Spiritual Formation) and Kyle Dillard (Worship Director) totally NAILED leading our church into a powerful focus this winter. I've led alongside both of them more than a decade - and they are the real deal. Men who talk about Jesus and point to him publicly, a lot. They are also men who love their wives and children well, care about their neighbors whether they know Jesus or not, and do good work, while persevering in spite of strong headwinds.
I got to thinking more - I attended a funeral last week led by my friend Rev. Vern Dodd, Sr. Pastor of Huntersville Presbyterian, who is retiring from a lifetime of ministry this spring. A man of faith and integrity, a stalwart to many in our town, finishing well. I though of Monsignor Bellows of St. Mark's Catholic around the corner - my favorite Roman Catholic priest I've ever been friends with - a lifelong monk who accepted the call to pastoral and public ministry later in life and has so much personal faith ballast to back up his up front leadership (i.e. up front leadership means you spend a few hours a week pulling arrows out of your behind). Friday morning I was at our denomination's regional meeting (Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic), sitting among dozens of men and women who are the real deal (not perfect) in Jesus Christ, over decades. Jeff Gardner, Robert Howard, Howard Shockley, Jane Roes, Fred Teagle, Bucky Hunsicker - I could go on and on.
The LORD calls all who know Him to "Be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you" (I Samuel 12:24). I can say from experience that serving him faithfully (not perfectly, not without the whole 'two steps back, one step forward' dynamic) is actually normative among people I know, including leaders, who love Jesus. That's as encouraging as heaven to me, and is the real deal I wanted to tell you about. Perhaps its a good part of what Calivinists mean when they teach that God will ensure the perseverance of his saints.