If you have followed me any length of time, you know I am not shy about critiquing the corruption and short comings in institutional and organized forms of Christian religion. I know many of you, like myself, have experienced not just poor church experiences, but scarring and damaging ones. Many are wary, rightfully so. Many are in extreme forms of reaction, both theologically and emotionally to anything formally structured or organized in terms of following Jesus with others–being the people of God together practically. Frankly, some have lost hope and given up.
That is why this post is so important. I have permission to share it and have blanked-out personal names to maintain privacy.
I believe this real-life, real-time letter from a pastor I know personally embodies the values and the transformative power of what can happen in a local church REGARDLESS of how it is STRUCTURED, when Christ is exalted and central at all times, where the good news of the gospel is relentlessly preached in a simple yet powerful way, and where loving and serving each other is all that matters practically.
I believe it will be worth your time to read.
This morning my wonderful mother-in-law passed peacefully at hospice. She went to hospice on Monday after a courageous battle with cancer and was surrounded by her family and some incredible nurses the last few days. Obviously our hearts are heavy today and we are very sad. My wife and father-in-law most of all, and yet at the same time, I know they both feel supported, loved, and very thankful for so many of you who have reached out to offer love and support.
Today as I write this email, I am find myself very overwhelmed by the grace and goodness of God especially in our community. I am sure I will share or say more about __________ and how much she meant to me personally and how much I will miss her. However, right now at this moment I just want to say thank you to all of you for being so awesome and loving the way you do.
As horrible as cancer and any terminal sickness are, it was incredible to watch what God did in _______’s life through all this. You may not know this about _________, but she really battled feeling and believing she was loved and cared for most her life. I saw God bring some healing to her in this regard in the couple years before she was diagnosed with cancer. She was starting to believe aspects of the Gospel and God’s love for her in ways that were bringing freedom.
One of the vehicles for that was our community.
The freer she became, the more excited she got about church and being with the community [SRC Commentary: This is the inevitable and logical outcome for any one who claims to love God]. In fact, _________was a driving force in doing our Eucharist meals together. She loved them and even was inspired to share at the next one we were able to have. She loved being with community, watching the community, and engaging with all of you in different ways!
All that to say when that when she was diagnosed with cancer, I watched her life and heart be changed by the belief that she really was loved and people liked her. The heartfelt outpouring from all of you and others from all over, was the final push that broke down the walls that kept her from really believing she was loved:
- all the hand-written letters, the texts and emails.
- tgreat big hugs on Sundays,
- the check ins from _________
- and walks with __________ through the week.
- The times we prayed for her at church or different ones of you prayed for her outside of church.
She was totally overwhelmed and amazed at how deeply, and by how many people, really loved her! It was precious and exciting to watch this happen for her.
I believe that in many ways this new understanding of how loved she was, gave her a new courage, grace, and faith to fight this cancer.Because of this, we were able to make the absolute most of the time we had left with her. Over this last season, our family has built so many wonderful memories and had so many great times with her.
I want to thank all of you because I really do believe that the love you showed her empowered that happening! So as your pastor, I am so proud of you and thankful for you. More importantly though, as your friend and just one part of this community [SRC emphasis added] I am so thankful and grateful for you all and the way you love and care for one another. Even in the face of a pandemic and not being able to meet together, your love still was felt and still ministered and brought life. If that is not proof of it being the real deal I don’t know what is!
Its special and unique and its truly life-changing. Thank you for being you. I love you and have a very present appreciation for you all today.
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