Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
- Isaiah 43:18,19
As I woke up very early this morning, my mind and heart once again ruminated on all the chaos and carnage connected to the Willow Creek story. So much loss and pain and broken relationships as a consequence of sin. It would be quite natural and easy to go to a place of despair. To conclude that maybe this whole idea of church is a disaster and it would be best for smart people to run far, far away.
And yet…….what more powerful two words can there be? AND YET……I still have hope. Though my soul is weary and exhausted, though the storm is raging on the eve of the Leadership Summit, I still hold on to hope. Here’s just a few reasons:
- I have hope simply because I know the God of Hope. I learned the astonishing good news at the age of 7 that Jesus loves me in spite of my sin. That I can be forgiven and transformed over time. That one day I will stand before Him, and only because of His extraordinary grace, He will say, “She is mine.”
- I have hope because throughout Scripture we read that our God responds to the prayers of broken, humble people. That when even the smallest remnant of his followers lament their sin and seek the truth, He will usher in healing.
- I have hope because God still raises up prophetic voices like Vonda Dyer and Scot McKnight to call His church to repentance.
- I have hope because 5 years ago now, God gave an assignment to Leanne Mellado to steward some heavy secrets, and she has been faithful ever since to call out for truth and justice. She was joined by her husband, Jimmy, and by WCA Board member Nancy Ortberg who courageously called the Board to do the right thing. Since then God has raised up other voices and unearthed other secrets and women have bravely told their stories. This brings me great hope because I believe truth and love and grace will prevail.
- I have hope because Tuesday night Pat Baranowski sat on a stool in my kitchen connecting on a group call with old and new friends who breathed love and support into her life. She has come out of isolation into the light and she is on a path to healing. Pat left my home with a radiant smile on her face, once again tasting the wonder of community.
- I have hope because there are so many followers of Jesus at Willow Creek and at other churches around the world who long for the bride of Christ to be radiant and beautiful once again.
- I have hope for the next generation of believers. As I looked out last Sunday among the young people at my current church, Soul City, I saw the faces of people eager to learn, devoted to serving their community, longing for transformation of their heart and soul. And I have hope they will learn from the Willow Creek story. My daughter texted me this yesterday: “There is a bigger lesson in leadership than anything they could teach at the Summit and churches and seminary students all over the world are going to learn from it.”
Several people have been posting lately that “Jesus is the hope of the world,” not the local church. I hear that, but we must also recognize that God decided his Plan A for reconciliation would be through the local church, His bride. So it is also true that a healthy and thriving church is the hope of the world, revealing the hope of Christ to all who are lost.
This is not some Pollyanna post ignoring the tragedy of all that has taken place. But if God’s people will humble ourselves, lament our sins, and surrender ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, renewal can come. There is Spring after the deadness of Winter. God wants to do a new thing. Can we see it? Will we cooperate? Let’s hold on to hope.