Recently, when Dawn and I attended the Antiracism training provided by our annual conference, I had the opportunity to meet some new ministry colleagues.

One was a person serving in children’s ministry in a mid-sized congregation, much the size of West. We were talking about the challenges of ministry period in this post-Covid, post-Christian world. When I shared about AMPED (West’s online children’s ministry), she asked if she could have more info. The best way to explain AMPED to someone is to invite them to watch, so we sent her some links.

As we gathered together the next day, she approached me, looking quite concerned.

“I have watched the episodes. That seems like a lot of work. It also seems like it is largely geared for children who do not attend on Sunday mornings.”

I explained that we have online worship for adults, and this is our “online worship” for children.

“So, they never come on Sunday mornings?”

I shared that some do, but they have different lessons/engagement activities. The AMPED she watched is completely online.

Her words still ruminate in my mind.

“I’m really going to have to think about this. I would never have thought to spend so much time/resources on the children not yet here. Historically, I have spent my time trying to reward the kids that do come. I have forgotten that it is the call of Jesus to also care for the ones not yet here.”

We discussed the importance of “both/and” and also discussed the parable of the lost sheep.

For 14 years, I served under the leadership of senior pastors. At one point, the new pastor wanted to fire existing staff (me) and bring in their own (wife) (thus how I landed in Mooresville!) After that, anytime a pastoral change happened, my anxiety would skyrocket.

Years ago, when Rob Fuquay moved to Williamson’s Chapel, I was so “proud” of our growth that I thought, “How could any new pastor come and not be thrilled with what we are doing? They are going to think they hit the church jackpot!”

In just a few years, we’d grown from averaging 450 in worship to over 1000.

Rob was not “thrilled.” When we were having a passionate exchange about the health of WCUMC, I became offended because he wasn’t impressed with the work we’d done. He explained, “I’m not discounting the growth. But what I am asking is, “What are you doing to meet/find the ones who do not yet know Jesus? Based on your conference stats, every new member last year was a transfer of membership, no one professed their faith. Basically, it’s folks “swapping churches.” No one is new to experiencing the power of Jesus. I welcome and love all people. But we need to look at things differently if we are going to heed the call of Jesus. Maybe we can start by stopping calling the entryway the “narthex.” Who the heck knows what a “narthex” is anyway?”

After a few weeks getting over being butt-hurt because he spoke truth, I realized he was right.

It was then my entire spiritual and leadership journey began to change.

Falling in love with Jesus calls us to reckless abandon.

When you have 99 that are safe and herded, you leave them. You risk them to find the one.

Love the people; look for the people not yet here.

It’s a reckless love.

A foolish abandon.

Are you willing to live and love that way?

More on this tomorrow.

Grace and Peace,