I am in the midst of preparing a lecture for a college class I am leading in a few days and have been contemplating some things about my own journey as a Christ-follower. In recent days I spoke with a pastor who said something to me that was highly “inward-focused” about his church. I thought to myself, “How sad is that…and why do I not feel similarly consider we both work in the same town?” Then it hit me! I’m pretty different than most other Christians I know.
As I thought back to how this could have happened…I realized who was responsible! It was my pastor! He wrecked my life!!!
Now I grew up in a church environment in the bible-belt of South Carolina. I went to church with good intentions…and because it was expected. I was part of a couple churches growing up but none of them really drove the gospel deep into my soul. Sure…I served in the church, attended the meetings and even played a little church league sports…but I still “drove” my own growth in the kingdom.
After high school, I joined the Army…traveled around and pretty much put the church on the far back burner. I still “believed” but really had no passion for the gospel.
At the age of 26, having returned to my hometown, I began to attend a church where I was challenged in a new way. I had a pastor who was witty, humorous, and incredibly gifted as a teacher. He taught me to read and understand the bible for myself. Furthermore, he had so influenced others that a couple of men in the church took the initiative to invest in me. (I would never have called it that…but would say that they had no problem inviting me to bible study, calling me into an accountability relationship, and demonstrating a manliness that I was unfamiliar with in the church.)
While under this pastor’s teaching, I came to realize that while I was “saved” I had never stepped up to grow as a disciple. There was no real fruit in my life because the roots of my faith were pretty shallow.
So…how did he wreck my life?
He forced me to consider the implications of the gospel! He did not do this by holding a gun to my head or by locking me in a dark room until I yielded. He simply kept putting the gospel and its implication in front of me.
First…he inspired me to read the Scriptures. It was ok to disagree with him but if I was to disagree with the messages he preached, I had better dig deeply into the Word. I learned how to do that by his teaching. He was a “pastor-theologian.” His teaching was solid, memorable, and difficult to ignore.
Second…he modeled and expected evangelism. He was a soul winner…personally. He was always at visitation and always challenging folks to consider their relationship with God.
Third…he was a man of deep conviction. Agree or disagree with him…you never wondered if he was convinced of a course of action or facet of belief. He stood firm in his beliefs…even at great personal costs. He modeled this in a very humble way.
Fourth…he was not afraid to “poke a guy” to get him to step up. I recall wrestling with the notion that I needed to do more for the kingdom. Sitting in a “committee meeting” one night…he asked me if I would lead the group. I was blown away! There were much more seasoned people on the committee including a couple of deacons, but he pressed me in a challenging kind of way…the way we ask a guy if he’s scared to run through a snake infested swamp at night. He might be scared but he would never admit it to another guy!
Fifth…he bombarded us with the mission. Not a missions program but with the mission of the church…to carry the gospel to the nations. We talked about it, prayed for it, discussed it incessantly, had conferences exposing us to it and celebrated it. He seemed to act as if the mission was more important than debt-retirement, on campus attendance…anything. His strategy was so effective, that I remember my oldest son crying at the end of one of the first mission conferences we’d ever been to because the missionaries were going back to the “field” and he could not go.
Sixth…when I sensed a calling to ministry…he “put me in the game” immediately. He challenged me at the core to “man-up” and embrace the calling…but only if I could not do anything else. When I came to realize that I had to embrace vocational ministry or I would die…he scheduled me to preach…immediately.
Seventh…finally, he prayed with and for me. I would schedule time to visit with him but the time was always short (or it seemed so). He would answer my direct questions but when he sensed that I wanted to know something that was best communicated by the Holy Spirit…he just smiled and began to pray for me…out loud…and then sent me away.
So…how did he wreck my life? Well it is not my own anymore! I used to have some control…or at least thought I did. I used to plan my life around my comforts, my desires, and my passions. Now I can’t stop thinking about God’s desires and God’s passions. I used to think my purpose was to make money and build a fat retirement account. Now I know my purpose is to wreck the lives of others…in the same way mine was wrecked!
I can’t change who I am now. The genie won’t go back into the bottle. But even if I could, I don’t think I would want to. Is life a little more unpredictable and exciting? That’s an understatement. Did I lose some friends along the way as my priorities changed? Nope…they lost me but I gained some new buddies who co-labor with me in the Kingdom.
So, Pastor Michael Cloer…you wrecked my life and I thank God for it and for you! I pray I wreck dozens more myself!