A Daily Lenten Devotion

Can you think of a time that you were given freedom to do something you’d always really wanted to do and you LOVED it?? There was no going back to the way it used to be!

When I first began my career in ministry 26 years ago I had no desire to ever be “the pastor.” I was quite content to be an associate and frankly, was still content doing that 16 years later BUT the conference asked us if we would launch a campus of Williamson’s Chapel (WC). I took on more of a “lead pastor” role as that adventure began. The senior pastor of WC that empowered us to launch West gave me tremendous autonomy. He said he trusted us to do what was needed to try to reach people that would never darken the doors of a traditional church. So off we ran!

Everything was great for a while, but then, unfortunately, because adapting to change is hard, some folks started getting upset because folks actually “went” to West. (Granted, that was a part of the deal from day one – we were supposed to have a “launch team.” But it sounded good on paper until it happened. Then folks changed their minds and gave the senior pastor hell.) The longer West went the more people became upset/angry and vocal. Finally, the senior pastor called me into his office with a suggestion/request.

“What if you come back?”

“What do you mean come back?” I asked.

“What if you come back? What if we stop this right now and let the West folks become a small group ministry and you come back and focus on music, missions, and pastoral care? We will even give you a raise.”

I walked through every component of the offer in my mind. The ramifications of letting West “go away” as a church, rejoining the large staff, and stepping back into roles I’d walked away from more than a year previously. There was no way. The movement that we’d begun at West was taking shape and impacting lives. New people found their way to God through West and although it would have been easier and more convenient in a lot of ways (and I certainly could have visited Buckle or TJ Maxx more!!!) going back was not an option.

Being free to shape a message and create pathways toward Divine Love was one of the greatest opportunities, privileges, and experiences ever. There was no way to go back to the way it used to be.

That is what was happening with the disciples and Jesus prior to him saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14)

Jesus knew his time with them was drawing to a close and he was trying to prepare them for what was yet to be. They were freaking out . . .  they’d encountered God in such a way that God became real to them! No longer was God some “far away, unable to be experienced personally deity” but instead was a personal relationship with each of them. One that changed them infinitely. If Jesus left them, were they going to lose that connection to God? Were they going the lose the amazing things that had happened in each of their beings?

Jesus desperately wanted them to understand, “NOTHING has to change other than I won’t be physically with you . . . in fact, even greater things can happen because you will always be able to experience my love, God’s love! I have shown you the way!!!!!!!”

Think about that verse from this perspective for a bit. Jesus wasn’t trying to be exclusive nor dominate every religion . . . he was merely trying to remind them, “I have shown you the way! Before me, you did not know the way . . but now, not only have I shown it to you, you are living it! Embrace it – YOU KNOW THE WAY!”

And what a beautiful way it is . . .