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People Are Looking Up!

Yesterday was a refreshing day for me, packed with long chunks of time spent with wonderful people.  One of my encounters was a long lunch with Greg Boyd, Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel, Merced – SEE LINK.  I went to school with his kids back in Northern Virginia, and I’m so pleased to hear how each of his kids have turned out in their adult lives, passionate about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Greg is such a refreshing person to fellowship with and be reminded of God’s un-earned favor on the believer’s life.  His humility and joy is notable and his friendship to me was instant the first lunch we had over a year ago.  His attention is able to be focused in on someone with such precision and kindness that you feel God’s favor in your encounter with him.  We discussed the same kinds of attributes among so many of the pastors of the churches here in Merced.  We spoke of Rick Hoppe, a dear friend and mentor of mine, and his gentle and encouraging way among those of Faith Bible Church.  We spoke of several more of Merced’s pastors, whom Greg gets to meet with for lunch every Wednesday, and how there is a general focus together as pastors on the upbuilding of believers and reaching of the lost.

There are definite critiques that we could give to any local church given enough time as its members, but one thing is for sure, that we are all members of the same body of believers in the final analysis, so long as we’ve placed our trust in Jesus Christ and not self.  Greg’s insights are many, but one thing that was really interesting was the reminder about exegetical preaching of God’s Word, going through the Bible one passage of a book of the Bible at a time.  This is often criticized as too methodical or easily able to lose the attention of the body, but if you’ve been a part of a church where God’s Word is handled this way, you get caught up in what is formally called biblical theology as opposed to systematic theology.  The story of God’s redeeming for Himself a people whom He seeks out and saves, this is the story of biblical theology as learned in the pages of Scripture.  Debates such as a reformed vs non-reformed understanding of God in His Word become less divisive, and God and His mercy become the theme more than us and our pride.  The beauty of the church leaders building friendships and praying together is that the body-life of believers here in Merced is likely to follow in friendship fashion.

If we see our senior leaders for each church getting time together to pray and encourage one another, aren’t we more inclined to enjoy one another instead of being each others’ critics?

A burden I have is to encourage a trust in God with each other from local church to local church.  What would it look like if the churches began to grow not through transfer growth but rather through seeing new believers graciously pulled into fellowship from church to church?  As we learn to honor each of the churches and point out the grace that is evident, the strengths of each local church, we can’t help but to endorse churches for each other but more importantly for new believers.

The need for a united focus on making new disciples of Jesus Christ couldn’t be more important or relevant, dear siblings in Christ.  We must prioritize a steady effort together as a community to live “on mission” as has become popular to say.  Yet, instead of racing to be the church in the lead with trends such as “a church on mission” or “a church that lives on mission,” let’s all do this together!  It’s not a trend to follow Christ (Matthew 28) and His call on our lives to make disciples.  It’s what we’re still here on earth to do together.  We’ll be far less quick to critique and far quicker to encourage and spur on to love and good works if we have the same goals in mind and at heart.

Apparently the prayer lunch has been up to 12 to 20 pastors and non-profit leaders, which is encouraging.  Much thanks goes to Al Schaap, Senior Pastor for Gateway Community Church – SEE LINK.  Al has led the effort to re-unite the senior leaders of churches and Christian non-profits for years now.  I haven’t been as involved in Merced for a season (year and a half) and was only involved for about three years prior to this (2011 to 2013), so it’s been pretty special to re-connect and meet these leaders one-by-one for lunch of late.  I’ve mainly been meeting with pastors and leaders of non-profits who I know or who have been recently introduced to me.  The highlights and consensus I’ve gotten, however, have been very encouraging.  There is a general tenor of unity around Christ, the Gospel of Christ, fulfilling the Great Commission, and so-on.  There will always be skeptics whether in the church of the church or from outside the church critiquing believers as a whole.  We have much to learn as believers, but shouldn’t this be a mark of our being disciples?  We’re supposed to be marked by being learners and followers, all looking to our Shepherd and Savior!

Enjoying my journalistic and relational blogger’s path through relationship lane here in Merced as I reconnect.  Thank you to so many friends for your gracious accepting of invites to lunch or coffee.  I look forward to many more encounters!

In the joy of our Savior and in His mercy in Merced, CA,

– Torrey

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