They say that pastor’s kids always turn out to be mean. Well, I raised three kids as a pastor and I can tell you that—it’s true! But now, I know it’s not because they were pastor’s kids, it’s because they spent way too much time with deacon’s kids! That’s a joke! But the truth is, pastor’s kids are under a lot of pressure. They really are expected to be role models for all the other kids, at least by many in the church. People need to remember: preacher’s kids are no different than anyone else’s kids. It’s tough being a pastor’s kid.
My son Mike is now 49 years old. He struggled all his life as a pastor’s kid. More than anything, he just wanted to fit in with his peers. In an effort to do that he went to extreme measures to show that he was no different than his buddies. Mike was a little dare devil! He would do things that were off the chart dangerous to gain acceptance and recognition. At a very young age he started smoking so he would not be “different”. He soon graduated to pot and then to alcohol. At school, he was forever in trouble. Finally, the law got involved! Mike has been in and out of jail, rehab facilities and halfway houses for much of his life. Recently, he was homeless, on the streets of Lebanon, TN.
Now let me back up several years. When Mike was six, we had a “revival meeting” in the little church I was pastoring in Catoosa County Georgia. An evangelist preached that revival, who was typical in that he was loud and long! Oh, he shared the Gospel—accurately! But the spirit in which the Gospel is shared is as important as the content. The truth was given, but the kids were scared to death. I’m not saying that anyone shouldn’t be afraid of going to Hell, but the only real motive for coming to Christ is love! Mike only had one thing in his mind: he was scared to death of dying and going to Hell! He had no knowledge of God loving him and sending His Son to die in his place to not only save him from Hell, but to save and change his life. It didn’t take long to clearly understand that whatever happened to Mike in that “revival”, it wasn’t God. Mike turned into one of the most rebellious people I ever knew. He finally grew to believe that God was a cruel jokester. He was the one that was evil, not Satan! He was simply using people as unwilling pawns in a big cruel joke called life and then sending them to Hell! “No “god” that could send billions of people to Hell could possibly be good” was his conclusion concerning God.
Now, let’s come back to the present. Four weeks ago, Mike fell and dislocated his elbow. Someone from a church in Lebanon called Cross Style volunteered to take Mike to Vanderbilt. Now remember, Mike’s homeless! He has no money, no insurance and no immediate hope of obtaining either. “God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust.” The great folk at Vanderbilt set his arm! They treated him like a paying customer and showed him respect. He called me two weeks after the fact and asked me if I would take him to Vanderbilt for a follow up. Of course, I did! That gave me a couple of hours of uninterrupted time with my son to talk about life and what matters and God and truth. I loved it!! But I began to notice as he shared with me about Cross Style Church and all that he was experiencing there that Mike’s attitude was changing. The people loved him and reached out to him. They provided a place to sleep inside out of the elements at night. They fed him a wonderful dinner every night. The pastor preached the Word of God and provided a worship experience that touched his hardened heart and began to soften it! Something wonderful was happening!
After several weeks of non stop 1st Century style church shown to him and many others in the 21st Century, the love of God was melting the hard veneer that had crusted my son’s heart! On the following Tuesday, I took Mike back to Vanderbilt for his second follow up. Again, the conversation was awesome. Mike was opening up. He was being honest. His old arguments were losing their hold on him. The truth was breaking through and he was being set free!! On Wednesday morning, he was broken. All that amazing grace and love poured on him from Heaven through the wonderful ministry of Cross Style Church had paid off!! Mike saw the truth for the first time! It wasn’t God that was bad, it was Him!! God was good! He took the sin of the world on Himself on the Cross to save people from their sin, so they would not have to die and go to Hell! He now understood that God had something better for him than the wretched life he had been living for so long! Hallelujah!!! Twenty-five years of prayer answered in a single moment of time!!
I am now 70 years old. I have been a pastor for 43 years. My calling to preach the Gospel of Christ is the single most wonderful thing about my life! I am currently pastoring Millersville First Baptist Church in Millersville, TN. Our folk are some of the godliest, loving, friendly, Christ-like people on earth. Our hearts desire is to be a church that honors God and demonstrates His love and redemption to the people of our community in real and practical ways. After Mike called me and shared his wonderful spiritual break through with me, he invited my wife Mary and me to have dinner with him at Cross Style Church and attend the worship service that followed. We were thrilled to accept his invitation. Let me just say, what we experienced that night was the most radical demonstration of Christ-like ministry I have ever witnessed firsthand! I said right then and there, this is what I want my church to be like!
The building is plain. Nothing fancy at Cross Style. The people are dressed very casual. The place was overrun with homeless and needy people. They were being fed a warn, home-style, delicious meal. You might have thought in some ways you were at the Nashville Rescue Mission! The music was spiritual, passionate and well done. The message was right from the throne room! You could close your eyes and think Jesus was preaching! And I was, for the first time in his adult life, sitting next to my son in a worship service! Pure Heaven!! I thought to myself, there are many, many people on the streets of our world who need exactly what’s going on in here!! That’s what I want Millersville First to be like. It may not look exactly like Cross Style Church, but it has to have the same spirit and effect. We have to bring people face to face with the living God! The Spirit of God alone can soften hard hearts. The Word of God has to be shared accurately, but in the power and Spirit of the Lord! Our building doesn’t have to be fancy, but our people must be there best for His glory!
So, here’s what I’m thinking: I couldn’t possibly be the only one who would love to have church like that! Perhaps the story of my son and the testimony of Cross Style Church in Lebanon sparked something in you. If you would like to be a part of something spiritually virile for the glory of God, come one Sunday to our worship service at Millersville First and let us know your heart! I am asking God to put together a family of faith in our community that will be used of God to meet the most pressing needs in the lives of people. People need the Lord, but they will never know Him until they see Him in us! Our church can make a difference!