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A Confession From the Road

I have a confession to make. I’ve been critical of the church. As a traveling itinerant evangelist, I have been all over the United States and abroad, and I’ve fallen into the trap of seeing what’s wrong with the church. When I hear that less that 2% of America’s youth are in church on a given Sunday, and I hear story after story of people who have walked away from Christ because they’ve been wounded by the church, it pains my heart and I want to scream, “It’s not supposed to be this way!” I’ve come across too many people who have never even given Christ a chance because of what they’ve seen in the lives of church people, or they’ve seen the church playing politics with their big buildings and sometimes empty words.

I confess I’ve sometimes wanted to distance myself from the church in an effort to reach people for Christ. As I’ve looked at history I’ve found that many others have done the same thing. But as I was taking a walk during some quiet time I was reminded how the Spirit again and again over the years has said to me, “To distance yourself from the church is to distance yourself from me.”

The church is His bride, His body, His agent for good in this world. Is she perfect? No. Only Christ is. Are we supposed to pretend and live in denial of the problems? No. But I don’t think we’re supposed to jump on the wagon with the critics and tear it down even more. No, I refuse. I will not do it.

Life Promotions is a para-church ministry. Para means alongside the church – not to take its place, but to work with and be a part of it, to be a partner to reach the lost. Picture it this way: Life Promotions is like a lifeboat on the side of a ship. The church is the ship, a safe place where so many great things are happening. But sometimes it doesn’t have the flexibility it needs. So, Life Promotions serves as the lifeboat that is released to go out into a sea of lost people where the church may not be able to navigate as easily, or steer as quickly, so that we can bring the lost back to the ship, back to the church. We want to bring youth, first to a saving knowledge of Jesus, and then connect them to the believers who care. That’s the church. But we have to work together.

When asked, “What’s wrong with the church?” I have to answer the same as G.K. Chesterton did; “I am.” If I am part of the church, then I am part of the problem, but I can also be part of the solution. I can apologize on behalf of the church and let others know that it’s a hospital for sinners, not just a museum for saints. I can let others know that we’re trying with all our hearts to be like our leader, who is perfect. We’ll never arrive, but we’ll never stop the pursuit. That’s why we’re in church: to struggle together, to heal together, to grow together. We have a purpose. We cannot separate ourselves from the church! It’s time to start building her up, not tearing her down.

I was so encouraged on a recent speaking trip because I was reminded how what we do on the road would not be possible without the vision of the church to reach into its community. Yes, we do the value message in the schools, but when we partner with the local churches to do an evening outreach, we can share the gospel, and the local church is there to follow up when we leave town.  I’ve been so encouraged by the churches we’ve worked with recently.

There was a little Baptist church in upstate New York with a congregation that had been gathering for more than 200 years. The building itself was 150 years old. When I walked in I saw beautiful stained glass windows, carved wooden pews, and a pipe organ that filled the front of the church. Along with several other beautiful pieces of furniture, there was a pulpit that alone was over six feet wide. You had to step up into it to see over the top. But all I could think was, “How are we going to fit a band up on this altar and make it into a stage?”

When we arrived, a meal was being served for the over-60 group, and the people that were helping to put on our event that featured a rock band, with the exception of one couple, were all over 60 themselves. But they graciously allowed us to move the pulpit, and set the drums up behind the communion rail. I usually like to do the rally in a public place because we’ll get more people to come to a neutral venue than in a church, but they really wanted it in their sanctuary.

Honestly, we were a bit disappointed with the turnout; only 120 came out. Still the band gave it their all and was jamming out. The bass was booming, the drums were banging, and the lead singer was jumping off the drum set.  I caught a glance of the pastor in the back calling someone on the cell phone and I felt a lump in my throat. “We’re in trouble,” I thought. “He’s calling the district office.”  I walked up to him, thinking I might need to diffuse a situation. But when I approached him, instead of a look of displeasure, I saw a smile on his face. “I’m calling my 20 year old daughter,” he said. “She’s never going to believe this is happening in our sanctuary.” Humbled.

I was still disappointed with the turn out, but those hands raised to receive Christ made it all worthwhile.  But I was also encouraged by so much more.  See, I was reminded how vital the church is in each community.  That night, the kids in that area knew that this church cared. And the kids that did come didn’t leave right after the concert – they went downstairs for pizza to be served by the kindest, most loving group of individuals I have met in a long time.  Some of the kids that came may not have had a grandpa or grandma, or parents that cared, but they knew that this unassuming congregation of faithful followers did care. They knew they were loved. They were showered on with a meal, soda, hugs and pictures with the band in the fellowship hall of the church, a church that was willing to demonstrate His love by putting aside their personal preferences for a greater cause.

All I could think was, “The church is beautiful. The church is his body. I’ll defend her with all that I have.”  I leave you with these words; the lyrics of a chorus from a song that my nephew, Nate Lenz, wrote. Won’t you join me in fighting for the church, and fighting for His Bride?

I’m on Your side, ’cause She’s Your Bride
And She’s beautiful somewhere deep inside
I’m on Your side, ’cause She’s Your Bride
And I’ll fight for Her till the day I die
– “Ekklesia” by Nate Lenz

For the Kingdom,
Bob Lenz

Founder & President
Life Promotions, Inc.

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