Warning: I can be a very blunt individual. It may indicate a lack of kindness, but I hope that isn't the case. I prefer to think of it as one individual defined diplomacy: "warfare by other means." This column about children, church, and Christians might seem harsh... but I'm writing it anyway!
A couple was furious with our church. We had gone to see what happened to them after someone noticed they'd been gone from our worship assembly for some time. "We aren't coming back," the husband said. "That is an unloving, cold church that claims to care about people but doesn't." I asked him on what basis he made that judgment and he replied, "We were gone four weeks from that church before anyone there even noticed. What kind of church doesn't even notice something like that?"
I replied, "What kind of person are you, that you could be gone for four weeks and the no one in the church could tell?" They were shocked by this 'attack' so I pressed on. "What work suffered because you stopped your ministry? What mission work ground to a halt because you withdrew your funding, prayers and support? Could it be -- just imagine with me a moment -- could it be that you never really were a part of the church? Could that be why your departure was unnoticed?"
I tell people -- and mean it -- that the Rochester Church is the warmest, friendliest, and most talented congregation I have ever worked with... but we don't make it easy to be a member here. All who come to be a part of us are called into the ministry and work of this body. They are expected to give and live as disciples, to be deeply involved in our work, and to be available to any other member who needs prayer or backup.
Kami and I built this into our children at an early age. As I have written before, we would often end the day with two questions: "Where did you see Jesus today?" and "What did you do for Jesus today?"
Let me rephrase this: make your life necessary. When you die, as we all will, you can either fill a hole or leave it. Your choice. I have no interest in filling a hole. I have a great interest in leaving one. Make your life something that gives, serves, and leads in such a way that when you are gone, it matters!!! I ask my staff and my children -- but mostly I ask myself -- "what difference did it make that you lived today? In what way did you do something that would have remained undone without you? Did your life matter today?"
Did you pray for someone fervently? Did you sacrifice some money or pleasure for another's benefit? Did you offer kindness and courtesy to someone everybody else ignored? Did you look for those who have been robbed and beaten by life and offer to them everything you had to help them as did the Samaritan?
People ask me how we raised our daughter to be such a sweet, dedicated, serving Christian and how we raised our son to be a noble, honorable, courageous man who is headed towards the officer's ranks in the Marine Corps. We challenged them to make each day an opportunity to make their life count. My son has written extensively on why he is going to serve in the uniform of the Corps. I will not quote that extensively here, but the gist of it is that everyone lives, but not everyone matters. Everyone dies, but most never lived for something bigger than themselves first.
And everybody fills a hole at death, but not everybody leaves one.