Tonight, I’m setting up a discussion time for our next generation leadership group. Some of our leaders and all our elders are taking about 70 young leaders through a process of preparing them to gradually take over the leadership of our fragile, funky church. We call it Timothy Trust. So I’ve written a lengthy tome outlining our history, values, our failures, and our re-engagement into the truths that started this movement of God in the 70s.
I want you to have this snippet of it so wherever you are you’ll be reminded that “pristine success” is never the goal, or reality for any work of God. What is beautiful is when we allow God to reveal us and trust His grace and changeless love to restore us into what might be even greater than before we failed.
So after outlining the beautiful, sacred beginnings of our ministry I come to the inevitable time of pain and hurt. I hope this glimpse into our family encourages yours.
“Then something happened that none of us still can figure out. It seemed to seep in as we began to talk about moving from our location on McDowell. In the conversations we somehow started hurting each other. And some of us felt abandoned or betrayed. And trust got broken. And sides got picked. I watched in horror, for I knew that we would now go into a season of pain. None of us knew if or how we would emerge from this. It looked for awhile like this dream and way of life might be destroyed. Where once some of us traveled an hour to come to this place, now distance suddenly mattered. And as we moved from McDowell and eventually found this location, many, many families went elsewhere. That fragile and sacred commitment which had protected our family was unraveling. Bill was no longer the keeper of that tapestry and I didn’t have the maturity or understanding to promote or protect it, either from the pulpit or my life. And we became more of a ministry from the front, maximizing my gifts. We didn’t say that or know that. It just sort of happened. People more and more started coming to watch than serve or make commitments of love. I gradually learned how to protect and express these truths of grace we have grown to value so much. But I didn’t know how to merge them with getting out and living them in our communities. Somehow the rest of us didn’t fully know how to protect the relational convictions of our heritage. Gradually we got larger and stopped doing whole church retreats and celebration Sundays and talent shows and Men’s and Women’s retreats where almost everyone attended. We stopped celebrating our heritage because it seemed to offend the newcomers, and slowly we lost touch with who we were.
And so we sort of skipped a generation of deeply committed disciples. Open Door was still exceedingly beautiful. And for many, even in that season, they were the best days of their lives-because God’s hand and commitment was still all over these truths that we so carefully and intentionally hold.
Even our elders got sideways and stupid. We stopped even going on retreats together, because they were too hard and hurtful.
Then God decided this chaotic season must now draw to a close. Humbled, broken and beaten, we began to wake up. Like that king in Lord of the Rings, who had been under a spell and suddenly awakened, we began to emerge to the memory of how much we needed each other and how much we loved each other and how much was at stake for the sheep we were asked to shepherd.
And we looked around and asked if we should continue. Each of us re-upped our commitments. And then a wonderful, surprising thing happened. We began to tell on ourselves and own our failure and repent of how we had hurt each other along the way. And we rediscovered how much we loved each other. Then we discovered that we have never really learned how to protect each other. And so, starting with the elders, asking Bill and Bruce to help us, we started to learn how to give permission and offer protection. Like deep magic, love began to repaint our landscape.
We began to look around and discovered there were many who had refused to leave. They were never told to stop honoring their love and faithful commitment. They were simply continuing to love all along, waiting for the rest of us to mature and heal and lead them.
And we discovered there were many from this next generation showing up, even though we weren’t hip or focused, just because they needed to believe there was a place that still believed this way of life could be lived. Many of you are in this room tonight.
And now, amidst all this history is something sacred that we stand upon. It is this thick, deep platform that has been forged by the sacrifice and hurt and forgiveness and courage of those who came before us. Many of us have stayed and some of us are no longer here. The platform is full of scratches, nicks and stains. But it is real and strong and true. If you want to, you could actually dare try these truths out again, like others did before. Some of you won’t. That’s good and fine. But some of you God will use mightily here. For this may be true: maybe the very best days of Open Door are still to be written. And they are chapters where you play the lead roles. And we who remain, who have learned how to believe these truths, forget them, fail them and then be restored in them…we don’t know how to give this to you. Many of us in here were there in that season of pain. And we have come through it and are healing and have so much to offer, but we are getting too old to lead this. We don’t know how to release you. We don’t know how to give you what you need to do it beautifully. We don’t know how to hand you the keys. But we are deeply, solidly and undeniably ready to do it. So, ask us, force us, compel us to give you what you need. Ask the meaningful questions, not to put us on trial, but to get the best from us. We’re here. Use us. All of what we’ve been through has got to be good for something.”