Interactive Sermon

"Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured" ~Old Russian Proverb

Friday, September 23, 2005

G.O. 2005: Namibia (pt. 3)

Here is the third installment of my Namibia trip Summary. Earlier parts were posted on 9/19 & 9/21.

Amidst all these questions & contradictions there are some who seek the truth…
We recognized that preparing this team for the trip would require intentional relationship building. To really get to know the dancers and their families would mean more contact than a few official team meetings and training sessions hosted at the church. And with the very busy schedule of rehearsals and competitions the dancers and their families embark on each spring, this meant the Christ’s Church side of the team, especially our team leadership, needed to parlay the world of dance competitions and recital performances. Being a dance-parent, the dance world is very much a part of our family. But for the rest of the Christ’s Church folks I anticipated that this would be a little awkward. I was thrilled to see so many of the CCA folks begin regularly showing up at the girls’ dance events.

For the dancers and their parents the beginning had to be every bit as awkward. The day before our first team meeting at the church a couple of the dancers asked my daughter what kind of clothing was appropriate to wear to the meeting. Another of the girls was said to have looked at our building as they pulled in the parking lot and remarked, “Is this the church? It doesn’t look like a church.” One parent instructed her daughter prior to that first meeting, “If there is anything strange going on in there get up and leave… and don’t give them my check!”

We added a number of less formal team socials as we prepared. These get-togethers were held in people’s homes, included a couple of fun outings together, and gave our team and their families the best environment in which to become familiar with each other. These settings allowed us to have meaningful conversations. These were priceless experiences, as I look back.

As the trip approached, these less formal gatherings increased. In conversations, a few of the dancers and a couple of the parents shared that they hoped to gain a deeper sense of God during this experience. Hearing that with my own ears thrilled me. I regularly pray for the Lord to open doors for spiritual conversation, but I’ve never pressed it. I have wanted first, foremost and always to build genuine relationships with people – not to press some evangelistic agenda.

Being a minister of the gospel, I recognize that last statement may shock, maybe even disappoint some of my fellow followers of Christ. Let me be clear – I desire more than anything to see people come to know Jesus – but I believe the Lord works through genuine growing relationships to touch people’s hearts rather than in clever sales pitches from near strangers. The truth be told, I can’t stand a sales pitch myself. I loath the idea of visiting a car lot for that very reason. So, I prayed. And I prayed fervently. An early (and frequently repeated) entry in my journal reads: “You heard them say that they want to know You. You better show up! You have to show up! I can’t believe that You wouldn’t show up! Father, will You overwhelm us with Your presence on this trip, so that no one can miss You?”