Image by the Sketch Effect.
My Orange Conference experience was a little strange this year–from the time I stepped onto the plane from the time I got back home to shower with no hot water…it was an odd year. :)
Usually when I go to any conference, I feel overwhelmed with all that I want to do in ministry. But this year, Orange was a time for me to reevaluate who I am in ministry.
The honest thing is that I’m in a season wrestling with God. I’m just really pissed at him right now. On the first day of the conference I journaled about it–lamenting that I’ve given up everything to follow my call to ministry, but that the things I desire most in the world (outside of my dream career) I do not have. And although I know that God is working in my ministry, it’s been hard to see him elsewhere. In short, everything that I have right now is wrapped up in the local church and I feel like I don’t have much to show for outside of it.
Of course, I am grateful for the local church and thankful for the work that I get to do. My prayers to God the past few months have been this simple: “God, you have given me all that I have. You have saved my life in every sense. I’d be nothing without the local church’s influence on my life. I’m frustrated and doubting you. But how can I not serve you back?”
I haven’t had much more else to say to God–just the verbal acknowledgement that I’m pushing through, even though I’m angry that I’m not getting my way when I feel like I’ve given all to give God his way.
Andy Stanley saved the day, per usual. He talked about how the local church saved his life. Andy said that the church has done and does all of this for us:
- informs our conscience
- instills a sense of purpose
- provides the context for lifelong relationships
- serves as a window into God’s activity all over the world
- shows us how to be generous
- will make your life better and make you better at life
- provides the strongest argument for human rights
- inspires us to embrace the one mandate that could change everything: Love your neighbor as yourself
Andy argues that when you really dig into this, you realize that the church is the place that should set the tone for everything good in the world.
This is something I was processing before Orange–how good exists outside of the Church, but the Church, if properly following God’s love and Jesus’ example, should be the hub for all that is glorious and good in the world.
- Who else can better show what it means to be open and inclusive to all than followers of Jesus Christ, who invited everyone willing to come feast at his table?
- Who else can better take care of the earth right here and now than those who understand that they are created in God’s image for the purpose of taking care of the earth and everything on it?
- Who else can better show grace and forgiveness to others than those who understand that they were forgiven while they were still sinners?
- Who else can better advocate for people who experience discrimination based on race, age, disabilities, mental health disorders, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more than people who understand that each and every one of us was made in God’s precious image?
- Who else can better demonstrate what it means to give respect before it is earned, when we believe in a God who loves us without condition?
- Who else can better do any of this than people who believe they are instrumental in uniting the Kingdom of God with earth?
Reggie Joiner, the man behind Orange, said that when Jesus died on the cross, it validated everything he ever said about loving others. And that is why the church should be the best at this.
This is why I give everything I have for the Church. And why I’m getting over this self-absorbed lament that everything I have is wrapped up in the local church–when the truth is that the local church loves me incredibly and has taught me everything I know about loving others. To be wrapped up in the local church is kind of the goal. I missed that.