Kris and I were in Fort Myers and Naples FL this weekend. We flew down early Friday and spent the day and next morning with our good friends, Jim and Bonnie Panther. The last time we visited them Jim and I played golf (I still remember my shots that day), but our time was more compressed this time and I think Jim missed golfing with all of his buddies Saturday morning.
I don’t know if all communities in Florida are like this one, but Jim and Bonnie must know nearly every one who lives there. Everywhere we went they were waving at friends. We get to talking about what we will do when we retire when we visit with them, and I must confess that professors and writers may retire from teaching but that would give me more time to do what I already love to do — write. I love to play golf but don’t know how often I’d want to play … once a week would probably be plenty.
I found an image, and I want to use it with you and it is this: we saw some chameleons. Being a chameleon, when transferred to humans, is nearly always a critical remark. I wish to see if you think it can be redeemed — and redeemed in this way: Can it be used for how the church and ministry need to adapt to each environment?
Here’s what we saw: the church where I did some teaching this weekend has adapted, rather dynamically and intentionally, to a “retired world.” Greg Smith (see below) explained some things to me, and others did too, and before long I began to see how things work … ministry in such a community means adaptation — just like those little chameleons all over the place.
It was a real challenge to me to see their adaptations to seniors. I wondered how many churches have adapted to their community the way 1st Presbyterian Naples has. Not many, I suspect.
Now some details: Saturday afternoon we drove down to Naples where I spoke at First Presbyterian Naples. We were invited by Greg Smith, whom we got to know when he was serving a Lutheran church in Dallas. I did some Jesus Creed stuff and then got to share for five minutes in the Sunday morning services … and we loved the formal service.
Now for this: Robert Bohl, formerly a pastor of a very large Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, retired to Naples area and the pulpit opened at 1st Pres and the next thing he was not only filling the pulpit but the interim. Kris and I think his sermon yesterday morning, “What is Christian Love?,” was one of the best sermons we’ve heard in decades. Eloquent, laced with exceptional illustrations, and solid in theology. And he is a preacher’s preacher.
Tim Stewart, a former classmate of mine when I was a student at TEDS, found his way to our teaching time on Saturday … he looked vaguely familiar and then we discovered we were old classmates … and he was shocked when I remembered where he sat in Murray Harris’ class. What a delight to see Tim. He’s now pastor up the road at Burnt Store Presbyterian.
Kris and I always come away growing in our appreciation for the church.