In the past, I have had nightmares every night. Horrible nightmares. For years and years and years. After a decade of them tapering off, about 3 years ago those completely went away. Since that time I typically do not remember my dreams. In fact, I can not tell you the last dream I had. I mention this only to say that as I sit this morning reading and watching a fog rise over the mountains, it is an interesting fact to consider that this morning I have a dream within me that I can recall. Its been a long time.
Two nights ago we sat with a couple, Stan and Penny, who mentored us while we lived in Colorado. It was not a formal mentoring, we never read a book together nor met weekly for intentional time. Rather they were a 70 year old couple we met in our neighborhood. We walked the trails with them (they are in better shape than we are), ate meals with them, shared holidays with them, met them for coffee and also worshiped with them at our church. From the first week we moved in and met them (they invited us to the church we were already attending) there was never a week that we did not touch base with them. We shared our hopes and dreams with them, and also the trials of the life season we were in while living near them. And they with us. Though we did not agree in all arenas, we loved each other. They opened their home to us at countless junctures and continue to hold those doors open each time one (or all) of us travels through this state. You could say they were one of the greatest Gifts given to us while we lived here these past years.
While our family sat round their table, along with another dear friend from the neighborhood, Stan led the conversation. He asked the group, "What, in your opinion, is the purpose of the Church?" Every party present contributed their thoughts (thankfully, our girls are treated as adults in their home). I had recently read an article written on just the same topic, written in the 1800's. I found it so interesting to hold the article parallel with the conversation before me. Though there were nuances, the table agreed that the main purpose of the church is not to provide support groups, to entertain, to feed, to clothe but rather to further the gospel - to share the news of a risen savior and to disciple (train to multiply) those who receive the message.
Thus my dream, I believe.
My mind wanders back to that dinner conversation much as I am here in a place of margin with time to contemplate and turn over topics in my mind. If that is what I believe the main purpose is, how much am I furthering that cause? When was the last time I shared the gospel in action or in word? Certainly the way we live our daily lives, the way we engage with others and live alongside them is the main conversation... but then there are the moments when a window opens to speak. Do I speak when those moments arise?
When we moved to Camp I assumed I was living amongst those walking with the Lord. I know now that is not the case. It is the same in a church setting. You can worship alongside someone who hears the same sermons you do, attends the same Sunday school class you do, even serves on a committee or teaches … but they may not currently be submitted to and walking with the Lord. For the love, Martin Luther spent years doing exactly such before his conversion! Knowing the rules could not be farther from engaging in the game.
Savannah shares with me regularly how her friends are falling like flies, going neutral. Even girls who have served with her, led her bible studies, been counselors at Camp…they are drinking, sleeping with the boyfriends and overall going to sleep instead of engaging in the battle. She weeps for them, says they are laying down their armor. She feels alone. This morning at breakfast I will ask her how many of those she is sharing the gospel with? I assume she will look at me cross-eyed. I mean, after all, they have been bible study teachers, have been raised in Christian families, know tons of scripture. But have they met our Lord face to face, I will ask her? If not, how is she encouraging that in their lives? There is no neutral action once we truly meet the Lord - He demands an answer.
I will ask her as I ask myself the same.
Since I have been on staff not one person has asked me how I am doing spiritually. There is no accountability, there are no questions asked of any kind regarding spiritual matters. We pray together, read a few verses, but that is all. This model leaves vast room for error. I do not see fruit in more than 50% of the staff - lotta leaves, no fruit. In some I see bountiful fruit that took living alongside them to truly behold. We are told in Matthew 13 that the weeds are growing next to the wheat. That is true in families, in churches, in Camps, everywhere. But I ask myself, how am I furthering the Kingdom? How am I tuning my heart each day for intentional conversation? Who am I kneeling before to ask if they know Jesus, really know Him? Do I know that answer for each who the Lord has placed in my more intimate circles? Am I asking myself?
I think of John the Baptist. What an odd man he must have been. Odd meaning unusual. Was that oddness only intensified because he knew exactly what his life purpose was?
I have a hard time just getting along with the people I now live alongside. But the Lord is mercifully showing me new ways of living. My prayer as I leave this time of rest is that I may go back with a greater vision of what is being asked of me. That I may go back ready to engage with the lives of those who the Lord will place next to me. That I may speak and live the gospel, kneeling before them with my words and actions ( figuratively, but maybe even literally) so that I may ask both them and myself at once, "Do you know the name of Jesus?" If so, there is no neutral response.