I keep recommending Crazy Love by Francis Chan and I do recommend the book. But I think there’s a bigger picture brewing that has me so excited about it. I could start the story when I stood inside a Books a Million and spotted it on the shelves among other recommended books but I think I’ll start a few years back.
This is a long one but a good one…
In 2006, Stuart was youth pastor at our previous church. In a last ditch effort to fill a chaperone spot in the youth group, I was asked to go to youth camp. By that fall, Scott and I ended up as permanent youth workers. Stuart also was the choir director and our Sunday School teacher. I loved his style of worship and teaching and we were friends with both Stuart and his wife Shelley outside of church. I’m not tooting his horn too much but what I can say is I connected with his style and that in turn pointed me back to God. It began a great hunger for Him. Through many conversations with him I found out about this emerging church thing. I remember a book I read that he gave me and while some of it seemed a little funky to me, there was also something that resonated with me.
In the fall of 2006 I started teaching Sunday School for the youth. We used a curriculum by StudentLife I believe. That entire year I taught out of Acts.
In 2007, I read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell and then followed that up with Sex God by Rob Bell. It’s about the same time that Stuart started pushing for small groups within the youth and even church-wide. At this time, he also was recommending Andy Stanley (who at the time I had no clue who he was), Major Ian Thomas and Erwin McManus. It was the first time in my life that I had really thought about my theology. Why I believed what I believed and began making my faith my own. I had also known what I believed was the truth and never questioned that it was the truth, it was just a time where it became more authentic for me.
During all this and even more so after Stuart resigned at the end of summer of 2007, there was a great unrest brewing in my heart about today’s church. And it wasn’t that I was wanting to jump on this emergent church bandwagon. In fact, I didn’t really have a name for it. I just knew something wasn’t right.
In the winter of 2007, I read the Bible cover to cover. I can’t tell you how much that did for me. I finally saw our Christian history as a whole instead of small stories that I knew fit together but not sure how. I bonded with the Jews and became more thankful for Jesus.
In the fall of 2008, I took a break from Sunday School and we started attending Jake’s Sunday School class and guess what they had chosen to study? Acts. You can’t read Acts and feel like most churches are on the right path. Also at this time, I became convicted that even as Christians we weren’t doing enough. We spent the entire year in Acts.
Then this July I read Jesus Wants to Save Christians. It resonated so deeply with me in my belief once again that we weren’t doing Church right. And all the while, I knew it was wrong but I didn’t know what it looked like in today’s world.
In the past year or so, I began following Pete Wilson, a pastor in Tennessee, on Twitter. I don’t think I even realized he was a pastor when I first followed him. And then somehow I was following Anne Jackson, Matthew Turner and Angie Smith. I didn’t realize that they all went to the same church but for each one, I was connecting the fact they were near my age and yet had an authentic, relevant relationship with Christ. I followed Pete’s blog more and I knew THAT’S what I wanted my church to look like and that’s the mindset I wanted my pastor to have. I didn’t even know to put some kind of name to it…missional church or emergent church. I remember specifically a time where they simply handed out breakfast to passerbys and thought how simple but right that was. The messages I listened to on their podcast were relevant yet biblical. I even told Pete I may have to come up to Tennessee just to go to church.
It was the end of June/July when things begin unraveling more at our church. I’ve talked about the move we made before but somehow we found ourselves open to finding a new church and had God’s blessing. The first 3 weeks I cried at North Rock Hill. I almost cry thinking about it but it had seemed that after so many years of him moving me about Church that THIS was how church was supposed to be and it reminded me a great deal of Crosspoint. And you know what? In the end it’s not about church. Not at all.
During August I also attended Beth Moore’s simulcast, watched some video of Pete Wilson and Shaun Groves among others in a chat (that I can’t remember). All the messages were fitting together like a puzzle. I was about to burst with how I was clearly hearing the same message from multiple avenues. God was clearly trying to speak. So much so I started to wonder if this was fodder for a book somewhere in me.
I was standing in front of some recommended books at Books a Million about three weeks ago. We don’t go to Books a Million that much but the girls were with MIL and we had some time to kill and Scott wanted coffee. And I’m always up for a bookstore visit. I spot this Crazy Love book by Francis Chan. I had never heard of him or the title. I read the back and thought “He wrote my book!” God was insistent that I buy the book and read it.
On Pete’s blog I think the same day or at least same week I know, Pete was a guest speaker for Angie Smith’s book club (she also does it with Jessica Turner, who by the way, is Matthew Turner’s wife that I mentioned above). I had seen on her blog that she had started one but with all the books I was reading on my own, I didn’t want to join and didn’t pay attention to the title. Well, guess what book it was? Crazy Love. Of course.
I quickly joined the book club knowing already that God put that book into my life for a reason.
Back at NRH, Chris had launched the What If… series. It’s basically a 10 year plan for the church to impact the community with seven pillars or goals…adoption/fostering, transitional needs/school adoptions just to name a few. It was exactly what all these books I had read had been saying. And guess what Scripture he’s been using during his sermons? Acts. Of course.
They had some planning meetings in the past two weeks to talk about the details of how this What If… series will play out and in the middle of it Chris says “Francis Chan has really been messing with my mind.” Of course I poked both Jill and Scott on either side of me saying THAT’S THE AUTHOR OF THAT BOOK I WAS TALKING ABOUT. He never mentioned a title though and I had no clue how many books Chan has written. Still don’t actually.
This past Sunday morning I’m walking by the display table at church and guess what book is on display? Crazy Love. Of course.
I’m not sure if this is really a post about Crazy Love. Or God. Or us moving churches. It’s about a lot of things. It’s all the pieces of the puzzle that God is putting together. It’s my life. It’s our relationship. It’s my calling.
I’m just saying these aren’t coincidences. God is real.
And if I’ve learned anything, I can tell you that God loves us. He wants a real, personal relationship with us through Jesus. He wants us to delight in Him, even. It’s not about us, it’s about His kingdom. We are to make a difference in the community around us. The church is simply a tool that He’s using. The church isn’t a body of believers meant to grow simply for the sake of growing in numbers, size, wealth or even knowledge. We are here to proclaim that there is a Kingdom on Earth of which He is the King. We are to war. We are to battle. But not with each other. For the Kingdom.
I am fully convinced that God has been busy in my life these past 3 years when I didn’t even realize it….I’m only seeing these things in hindsight. That in this next phase of my life, I’m supposed to be building His Kingdom with the people at North Rock Hill. That God wants me to love him with a Crazy Love. That He’s going to call me to some crazy things. That I’m going to have to say yes over and over. That He’s going to love and delight in me all the more.
And I just can’t wait.
For a complete listing of books I’ve read:
And of course, the Bible with an emphasis on Acts