Monday, March 28, 2016

#9 - Partnering with Salem Church (The Year of 52)

In college my horizons expanded, along with those of everyone else. New experiences. New opportunities. New dangers. For me it was seeking out new churches. I tried the Methodist Church. Definitely not for me. I ended up walking a good mile or so up Calhoun Ave. to First Assembly. Now that was an eye-opener for a kid from a "be quiet and don't misbehave" Sunday morning church. I went to InterVarsity Fellowship gatherings. I met up with Campus Crusade leaders and eventually Mark Householder with Athletes in Action. But FCA (First Christian Assembly) became a home for about 2 years.

During my Junior year my parents graciously purchased a car that I could take to school. This gave me the ability to enlarge my circle of searching: Episcopal Church of the Advent (only because there was a girl there!), back home to Anderson Hills and then to visit down the road at Salem Church with Pastor John Larsen.

Stephanie and I had begun dating in 1983. It was now 1984 and since we were on a trajectory toward marriage, we decided to join a church together and we made that church, Salem. Here is where I began to enter into the "business" of the Church, almost a testing to see if this was really where God was leading.

By late-1985 I was beginning to help lead Sunday mornings as well as teach at the California Church, down near the river, a church also Pastored by John. It was there, at California, that Stephanie and I stayed through our time at Asbury Seminary.

John took a chance on me, on us. He was a mentor, setting up challenges for growth. He allowed room to fail and was there to help pick up the pieces when I did.

One of the great lessons I took away from that time, a lesson that follows me to today, is the importance of people. Ministry is not about looking good or saving face. Ministry is about people. I've lived that out personally especially with my approach to guests and visitors at worship. While I would gladly welcome anyone with open arms, I am far more concerned that someone finds what they are looking for - where God wants them to be - than I am about a person coming to the church I'm leading. One way I say that is I'm more concerned with helping people be followers of Jesus than I am about growing members of a particular congregation.

My time at Salem was formational to a Kingdom focus rather than a local focus. Everything I do I try to keep it centered on His Kingdom rather than my space in that Kingdom. More often than not, people appreciate the approach. A few throughout 27 years have felt like I didn't care about them. The majority have said how refreshing it is.

So, thanks John. It was a good experience that has lasted a lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. Matthew 6:33 says, "Seek first the kingdom, and God's Righteous" and all the things that are added are just things.

    Jeff & Stephanie were a gift to Salem that God allowed us to enjoy here for short time. You all are very fortunate to have them. I am pleased to call them friends and part of my extended spiritual family. Thanks you guys for your devotion to Christ, your commitment to His body, and your love to all of us still back here at Salem. You are good!

    Pastor John Christian Larsen