Overcoming Fear & Living in Abundance (Pt. 1)
As long as I live I will never forget my encounter with Buck. It was nearly eighteen years ago, now that I think about it, and I was working as a part time youth director in a small Presbyterian church in Tallahassee, Florida.
Buck, who passed away some time ago, was an elder in the very first church I served as a staff member. He was gruff, imposing and he stumped around the church leaning on his cane like he owned the place.
One night, I was leading a youth meeting, which included a rowdy game with the teenagers running amok through the halls of the church. Unbeknownst to me, Buck was meeting with the Pastor in the room directly across from our meeting space. I discovered this when they both emerged and confronted me in the hallway. The pastor had an odd look on his face, and Buck was scowling.
"Young man," Buck said to me in a growl. "I want to tell you something." He moved toward me laboriously until he stood about six inches from my face, and then put his hand on my shoulder. "It sure is good to hear a joyful noise in these halls again," he said to me softly. "Thank you." Then he turned and made his way down the hall as the shrieks of the teens followed him.
I will never forget that moment.
Sure, I had my fair share of critics back then (shocking, right?), but in just a few seconds Buck made me forget them. Buck remembered when the little church we served had been alive, vibrant and full of children. Those days faded, and years had followed when there was nothing but silence. We barely could get 80 people to come to worship on Sundays. And Buck missed the sound of kids in the halls.
Despite the fact that Buck was gruff, sometimes grouchy and combative when it came to church business--I knew the truth about him. Buck loved the Lord and Buck knew that if the beauty of our faith, and the leadership of the Church was going to be passed on the next generation, it had to start somewhere.
Too many churches give in to what former Kodak VP Steve Sasson describes as fear. He says that immobility, inertia, and eventually death for an organization comes when "Fear of losing what you have supersedes any potential advantage of reaching for what you can get..."
The Apostle Paul wrote, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the power of hell can separate us from God's love." Romans 8:38
If nothing can separate us from God's love, why is it that we allow our fears, and other people's fears to keep us from fully experiencing God's love? God wants us to have abundant life, as individual followers of Jesus, and as the Church. It's time we stop letting our fear of losing "what we have," keep us from reaching out to a world that needs to hear the Good News.
May you find ways to overcome your fears today and share your testimony, the story of God's love in your life. May you re-dedicate yourself to being a giving, loving, courageous member of your faith community, unafraid of where God might lead you as a group. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.