A Weekend Back in T-Town

Last night Mandi, the kids, and I drove back into Denver after spending a long weekend in Tulsa.  Despite the outrageously high temperatures and stifling humidity (it was near 110 degrees with the heat index most of the time we were there… blech!), it was a fantastic time.  We did our best to connect with all of our old friends, rest a bit, and then in the middle of it all, preach at our old church, Sanctuary.

That part of the weekend was just SO much fun it was ridiculous.  While at Sanctuary, I was the young-gun associate pastor who got to do everything under the sun at the church without being fully and finally responsible for the congregation as a whole.  Outreach, small groups, spiritual formation, worship + Christian calendar stuff, premarital counseling, weddings and funerals, college ministry, etc etc., plus I preached about once a month.  Being at Sanctuary during those years at times felt like being a kid on a playground during a family reunion… a world of fun at your fingertips, surrounded by love.  It was sad to leave that community two years ago…

…but oh-so-wonderful to return this past weekend.  What joy it was to share about all that God’s working in our midst out here in Denver.  Trying to kill two birds with one stone, I called my talk “The Last Two Years” and framed it around a handful of convictions that have crystallized in us since we’ve been away, narrated through the stories of God’s goodness among us here at Bloom.  In the main, my challenge to them was to believe (anew?) in the cosmic significance of the Church – the locally gathered body of believers who together act as a sign and foretaste of the kingdom of God; for it is through communities of folks gathered together under the reign of God in Christ that God has chosen to make himself known to the principalities and powers that enslave God’s world (Eph 3:10).  Is there a higher calling than that?

Anyone who knows me well knows that at bottom I burn for the Church to BE the Church, and being back in Tulsa rekindled an old and very deep sense of pathos for the Christians of that city.  Something about living in a city where Christianity (seems to be) so pervasive can work in you three things that are inimical to living the mission of God together as the people of God well:

  1. Cynicism.  Particularly among the folks of my generation (under 35), it is possible to become so cynical about the way things have been done or the way things are that one engages in endless criticism.  And criticism has its place.  But it is not creative, and as such, it cannot have the final word.  Sadly, some Christians (not just in Tulsa, but everywhere) think that “mission” is happening when all they are doing is sitting around with their friends, dissecting old theological ideas or ministry models, mocking what has been believed, taught, or done.  And God’s purposes for the world through us get stuck…
  2. Fatigue/jadedness.  Particularly among the folks of the older generation, it is possible to become like Solomon, jaded in his old age: “There is nothing new under the sun.”  We feel that we have seen it all, done it all, and no newness is possible.  And God’s purposes for the world through us get stuck…
  3. Self-congratulation.  Particularly among those who have inhabited a “Christianized” city for any length of time, it is easy to feel as though the city has been thoroughly “reached,” that there are no more new frontiers of mission to be had in that place.  And God’s purposes for the world through us get stuck…
The joy of preaching to the good folks of Sanctuary was to see that at least among one group of people, such is not the case.  Among them there is still energy.
And my heart burned for them following the talk.  I thought, “Would to God that they – all of them! – would see the outrageous resources at their disposal for making a HUGE DENT on the city of Tulsa…” the spiritual, relational, and financial resources.  Unbelievable.  There is no limit to what could be accomplished through the faithful of that city in every church, if only there were eyes to see it!  There are more poor to be served, more lost to be reached, more neighborhoods to incarnate his Presence within, more folks to be discipled and welcomed into the life of the kingdom… MORE, MORE, MORE!
So I come back to Denver with a full heart.  Sanctuary, thanks for being a family for us.  You keep getting after it in Tulsa, and we’ll keep getting after it in Denver… and God will be glorified in all of it.

2 thoughts on “A Weekend Back in T-Town

  1. Andrew so good to see you and your family, last Sunday. Did a nice job. You only used three really big words…I kind of faked it and pretended I knew what they meant….Don’t tell anyone..I hear you are coming back on the 17th. Looking forward to hearing you again. We will probably really have the heat turned up for you by then….God Bless. David

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