Sunday, March 5, I spoke at Village Church of Gurnee. The pastor is an old friend. Todd Habeggar and we first met on a basketball court: he was the star center at Fort Wayne (now Summit College) and I was a guard at Cornerstone. Todd had pointed elbows, and I learned right away that he could use them.
He had to stop using them, however, when he went to seminary at Trinity, one year after I did. We occasionally met in the gym, and then eventually were on the same intramural team — and I must admit that we were a pretty good team. Well, before I had left the area to go to England to do doctoral work, Todd was the pastor of Village Church of Gurnee. And he’s been there ever since — some 20 years. It now runs about 1200 per Sunday. Encouraging place with lots of folks finding their way through life.
The difference between college and now: as Todd said it, “We are the same, but we just are bigger and have less hair.”
As I drove to Village Church I got to thinking about and praying for Todd, and an odd thought came to my mind: How do you come up with sermons at the same place for 20plus years? There is an easy answer to this, of course: the Bible is big and you can’t preach through the whole in lifetime. But, still, one wonders how one can stay fresh. When I got there I saw Marty, his wife, for the first time since seminary days, and I got to wondering how a pastor’s wife can remain contented, as Marty obviously was, with all the issues that arise in a local church. Frankly, pastoring has to be one of the biggest challenges in our culture today.
My sermon, if you can call it that — I preach but I don’t “do” sermons because I’m a teacher with points, was on Jesus Creed: that Jesus learned a sacred rhythm of love from his parents; that Jesus embodied the Jesus Creed at the table; and that it takes a lifetime to learn how to love others. (They didn’t ask me to wear a tie, but I kept my shirt tucked in.) One person told me she thought I was talking to her the whole time (because it was she needed to hear, but most of the time I feel that I’m talking to myself as much at to the congregants).
It was a challenge to speak three times: 8am, 9:30 and 11am. But, there was great worship, a really good band with a drummer I met when he was a kid (Paul Hebel), the sound technician was my former barber (Brad — don’t need one very often anymore and he used to charge me extra — “finder’s fee” he called it), and a host of others I hadn’t seen in some time (shouldn’t even try to mention them all).
Here’s what I said when I got home: “Kris, there are lots of Christians in Lake County.” I know of a few churches over a thousand, and a bundle of churches about 500 or more, and I’ve come into contact with scores and scores of smaller churches, emerging groups, and house-churches, and it is just encouraging to see the Church grow throughout Lake County in many ways. (Please don’t press me on the numbers issue; I like big churches and I like small churches; I just like Church.)
This week we go to Coldsprings Community Church in Placerville, California; the next to Harbert Covenant in Harbert Michigan; then the next to Springdale Community Church in Louisville; and then we finish this mini-tour in Delaware at Eastpoint Community with Tom Ward.