Monday, January 24, 2011

You had me at "Estes Park"

JESUS - My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me... (John 17)

This photograph was taken Saturday afternoon. I'm on the phone with my new friend James, who serves on the leadership team at a United Methodist Church in the greater Denver area. James called to chat about the details of the men's ministry retreat that his church has planned for late April, up in the Rocky Mountains at Estes Park. They want to go deeper as Jesus-followers in terms of discipleship, and they plan to use "GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men" as a catalyst for the study.

Long story short I'll be flying out to Colorado to lead the retreat. "You had me," I told him, "at Estes Park!"

Good News Cheerleader! Over the past few years I've realized how important it is to share good news. Not just good news, but "The Good News"! Sharing Good News is - essentially - the work of the Apostle - the word literally means "one who is sent forth as a messenger."

When I turned 50, and after about 25-years of great experiences in local churches, I realized that I had a lot of good news to share. That understanding has defined the trajectory of my 50's. It is imperative that we tell the story.

Nay-saying is the anti-gospel!
Apparently, my experience has been unusually positive. Rather than Good News, there's an epidemic of complaining in the church at large. Finger-pointing, condemning and "holier-than-thou"-ing. Posturing and criticizing and "I'm-right-you're-wrong"-ing. Not only is this a sad fact of denominational politics, but the condition afflicts many local congregations too.

The sheer volume of all this negativity at times overshadows the reason The Church was called together to begin with. Eventually, the noise of discord became so loud to me that I finally understood, in a kind of epiphany, that God is calling me to tell the truth about the Gospel. The positive experience Rebekah and I are enjoying should not be that unusual.... Why? Because the Gospel happens to be very, very, very good news.

Good News is why I'm going to Estes Park! I'm going because a group of men have invited me to share stories of hope and encouragement and redemption and love - and of God-moving-among-us. They sound like they belong to a positive church where Jesus-followers have taken the Master's John 17 prayer to heart.

Once, attending a semester-long writers' workshop at the university, I was challenged by a group of women who believed my writing lacked something in terms of authentic life. "Your life is too positive," they complained. "You'll never be a real writer," they told me on more than one occasion, "until you've suffered more. That's where the truth is."

Well I've got news for The Angst Sisters. I've been through some very sticky trials in my life, and I'm sure there are more in my future... but redemption is a stronger theme than brokenness and pain. I honestly believe that the story we need to be repeating in church is the story of how God heals us and how God's love among us brings us joy.

If we want The Church to be the dynamic force for world-changing love that Jesus imagined when he prayed for his disciples at the Last Supper - then we are going to have to tell, and to live, and to re-tell that story in the very public way that we "do" church.

That's the Good News of the Gospel. And I can't keep my mouth shut!


  1. Post resonates with the Rob Bell quote - something like, "I've read the end of the story, and love wins."

  2. It seems we as a body have drifted far from the Good News Christ asked us to spread. We have made it more about us and less about Him. In Matthew we are told, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” We are warned not to hide that light, but the lamp appears to work just fine. The problem is we’re using too dim a bulb. God’s bright Good News alone is what we must share with the world.
    Thank you for the reminder!

  3. Here, Here!
    There is a spiritual principle that goes... "focus on what God has done [or is doing], not on what he hasn't done" We are to be Jesus people telling the good news about our good God. The world is broken and people are broken. No one will dispute that. There are a million reminders every day. What people need to know, need to be reminded of, is that God loves them... and I will show it. I know it because God is loving me through you and others and Holy Spirit. Let me tell you how God is transforming the world. It's a good story. And it's the truth.