I hesitated to write today. It was a rough day. Buck has been on staff at Lakeland for over four and a half years. And, now he isn't. It's over. We were there and now we aren't. That's kinda how it happened. Hundreds walked by us this morning not knowing we would never step foot inside that building again.
It seems weird to invest so heavily in a place, in a people for so long and then it just be over. As I was sitting there this morning wishing I could just say something to so many, I decided this might be a better place to say it. First, thank you. So many Lakelanders have invested in our family and loved us so well. Lakeland truly felt like home which makes leaving so much tougher.
But, if I could sit down over coffee, here is what I would say. Here is how I hope and pray our time at Lakeland will be remembered:
The church is God's plan to share the good news of Jesus. We must stay focused on that mission. When we forget to build deep and meaningful relationships with those far from God, we will ultimately become a place where the already convinced come to feel loved, encouraged, and safe, and we will no longer be a place where life change is happening as more and more people hear the gospel. So, who lives on your street who doesn't know Jesus? How are you loving them? What role is your small group playing in their lives? No matter what happens, don't give up on the Church. Don't run and hide because something didn't go your way or someone doesn't like you. Be apart of a local church. Invest. Over and over again. Through hurt. Through disappointment. It is what we are all called to.
You will never go wrong when you put the next generation first. Most people who hear and accept the gospel are under eighteen. Great churches invest their best resources and best people into the next generation. Families can be changed because of the way a church chooses to invest in the next generation. Never get sucked into the idea that family ministry is an afterthought. Never think you have to have more space or comfort for adults before the next generation gets your best! Keep thinking about how to serve the kids and families in your church and community and you will always be relevant!
Thinking orange allows us to invest in the next generation in practical and essential ways. So many hear about what we do or ask about what we do and think curriculum. Thinking orange is more than a curriculum. It's a way to approaching the roles of the church and home that give kids a firm foundation, practical application, and allows them to develop a faith of their own. It's a strategy that says when we partner with parents and allow consistent voices in the lives of kids and students, we can show them a God who is big and loved them enough to send Jesus. We can have a huge impact when we combine the warm hearts of homes and the light of the world through the church.
Community is essential to following Jesus. Day after day my life is better because of the people around me. If you are a Jesus follower and are not apart of a small group, you are missing out. In fact, to be a bit bold, you are probably not accomplishing all God has for you because most of those things we cannot do alone. I am closer to Jesus because of those closest to me who point me to Him over and over. I am more on mission because of my group who shows me how to love my neighbors and gives me courage to build relationships and share Jesus. What do you need to do to put yourself in community with other Jesus followers? How can this actually make you more aware of those far from God? I am overwhelmed with how our group loves us and cares for us and reminds us of what God is doing around us! We won't always get it right, but when we are living in genuine community, it is easier to get up and try again.
The only thing that will matter in 100 years is someone's relationship with Jesus. It's that simple. Let's not be distracted by the things of this world that pull us away from this. Good things. Fun things. But, things that don't measure up to eternity. Let's be on 24/7. Let's love people. Let's serve big. Let's build relationships with those who need Jesus. Let's take care of the least of these. Let's go without being afraid. Let's rally the Jesus followers around us to live big lives for His glory. Nothing else matters.
If nothing else is said of me, I want it to be that what was most important to me was whether others knew Jesus and how much He loves them by how much I love them. Do people know Jesus and how much He loves them by how well we love them and serve them and provide for them in our neighborhoods and ultimately when they walk in the doors of our churches one day? Let it be said of me...
I will give up anything else. Even on the days when it's hard. Even when things don't work out how I imagined or dreamed. Even when I don't get my way. I want the glory of God to reign. Forever. And, it will. So, I don't want to get in the way. So, sometimes we move on. With sad hearts. And, we must trust God, that His ways are higher and better and about His glory rather than my position or comfort or pride or preference.
Goodbye, Lakeland Family...I have learned and grown and will move on looking to invest again. Because we cannot give up. This is what we are here to do.