There are some words that once you've said them, you should never stop saying them over and over. Like "I love you." Words like that kindle a blaze every time. Sometimes those words relight a fire that's almost smouldered out, other times "I love you" is like piling a dry Christmas tree onto an already-crackling bon-fire.
Here are some words like that for Lake Forest Church that I haven't said enough lately:
"I'M JUST ONE BEGGAR TRYING TO SHOW ANOTHER BEGGAR WHERE TO FIND BREAD."
That is all I do, really. And when I try to do more than that - to serve any meal other than the Bread of Life in Christ, then I am a whitewashed tomb and a false guide (to echo phrases from my Master). I'm humbled and overjoyed when I see you living this out - humbly, insistently pointing the finger of your life to Jesus, the satisfying Bread of Life, to precious people who are hungry for God. People whose hurts and even their willfull sins are ways of begging, begging for sustenance in a dry and weary land.
"OUR CHURCH ISN'T A REST HOME OR CRUISE SHIP FOR SAINTS, ITS A HOSPITAL FOR SINNERS." (STAFFED BY WOUNDED HEALERS)
I am overjoyed when I see our tribe (or in Jesus' words, 'little flock') creating safe relational space for hurting people to reveal woundedness, fear, sin, and despair. This happens most often through vulnerability, honesty and trust given in smaller regular circles of community, including mentoring relationships. I am overjoyed when I see hurting people both accepted and coaxed toward healing. By the Great Physician, Jesus.
So friends, forgive me for not saying these formative words more often, words that have meant so much to who we've become (at our best) as a church. Please say them to one another, often, as you cooperate with the Holy Spirit in weekly construction of counter-cultural, redemptive Christian community with others.
Here are exceprts of two notes I've received recently that give me joy by telling me 'yep, there's an LFC person who sees themself as just one beggar trying to show another beggar where to find bread.' These notes represent more than just 'bringing someone to church,' but a lifestyle of friendship that 'welcomes who Jesus welcomed - people who've given up on church but not on God.' Well done, beggars:
"Mike - today I brought 5 people who never go to church...I don't know if they know Jesus but I keep praying for them. Today is a huge step for all of them just to come to church...I shared my experiences...of the most wonderful, Jesus loving followers (and of course who doesn't want to hear Mike Farris?)...I pray the Holy Spirit touches them today...the Lord knows their hearts."
"Mike - thank you for today's message. For years we've been inviting X to visit LFC with us...she's a huge skeptic...a tough crowd shall we say. She agreed to come this morning! She loved the service and the message and her comment was "Wow, I've never been to a church like that before. Seems like people are there because they want to be and not because they feel obligated"...pray that she comes to know the Lord..."'