3/21/15 Robert about 60
In an outreach conversation at the park I met Robert, a brother in the Lord who came to Christ years ago through the preaching of the lead pastor of our 22-site church, back in the early days when it was a struggling congregation in a single church building in a backwater Chicago neighborhood. Robert seems to be a strong believer, but he seldom attends church these days. He struggles with bi-polar disorder, and described his fear of sitting in public places like a church and suddenly losing the ability to think rationally and breaking out in uncontrollable sobs. I could see his genuine frustration with his disorder and with the struggle of wanting to be involved in church and not being able to. And Robert is another of many people lately who have me rethinking how we “do church.” For years I’ve been wondering if there might be a better way for us to do church. I thought there must be one best way, like the early church that met in houses. But what I am concluding lately is that with all the different expressions of the local church – and the many new mega ministries that are not so local – God is doing some awesome things. More and more I am realizing how different people are – our different ages, cultures, personalities, learning styles and family relationships – and how God has raised up a variety of churches and ministries for us all. We need many different points of entry, leading to Jesus, into God’s family. Many unbelievers point to the different divisions and denominations as evidence that God’s church is divided and therefore not legitimate, but I say it’s a beautiful thing. God has even differences between believers – like the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15 - to reach more people and bring them into His Kingdom. So how did Robert grow in his faith over the years without being able to attend a local church? Largely through TV ministries. To the extent that they are biblical and lead people to Jesus, God has raised up life-giving churches and ministries to carry out His Great Commission, and people like Robert are becoming faithful and obedient disciples of Jesus. We have much to be thankful for!