Ready for a Ride?

Do remember the “spinner” in the playgrounds of your youth.  You know, that circular metal platform with hand rails on it that your friends would push from the outside while the group sitting at the center were attempting to battle the centrifugal force and hang on for dear life.   When your so called “friends” got the spinner up to about 1000 RPMs  you would beg for mercy, hope that you were able to keep the PBJ you ate for lunch in your stomach, and then find your body hurtling off the spinner into the next county.  Having been a “husky” child I lamented the fact that the lighter kids had an easier time staying on the spinner while my slightly rounder frame seemed to propel me off the spinner more rapidly.   You may be asking yourself what in the world recollections of the playgrounds of my youth have to do with what is going on in our church.  Well, I’m glad you asked!

In one sense, a healthy church should be like one of those playground spinners.  When we first climb on we are able to experience closeness with the other riders at the center of the spinner but as the rate of spin increases we are eventually spun out into the rough and tumble world.  Those who are “well fed” and have the largest spiritual girth should be the first to be launched off.  The church should be a place where believers experience close fellowship and are fed well from the Word but there is always the danger that we become too comfortable sitting together and simply soaking up spiritual truth without putting that truth into action.  When this happens the Lord can give the “spinner” a bit of a shove to increase the RPMs to launch us out where there are so many who are hurting and desperately need to know him.  We see this happening in the book of Acts where the church was called to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jersualem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. It appears that the fledgling church would have been fairly content to stay in Jerusalem so in order to fulfill God’s plan the Holy Spirit gave the spinner a bit of a shove.  This sent the believers out farther and farther to share the love of Jesus.  God often used the force of persecution to move believers “off center” and beyond their comfort zones to where they were most needed.

As a pastor it has been encouraging and challenging to watch as God “spins” many from our body out into the world.  The second half of our vision statement says that we want to be about “Showing God to Our World” – or, in other words, well fed believers being spun out to build relationships with non-believers that will impact them with the truth of the gospel. .  In the last 6 months God has permanently “spun” about 60 people from our body out beyond the borders of Pensacola in moves to new locations. Though we will miss them greatly, we can rejoice in how God will use them around this globe and trust that their time here has fed and equipped them to be effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ in their new locations.

There is a second group of those who are being temporarily launched out from us.  This summer there are many from our body who have been propelled by the “centrifugal force” of the Holy Spirit out to places well beyond the next county.  I think of one of our own ministering to orphaned AIDS babies in Lesotho, Africa, or a group of teens spun up to North Carolina to make a difference for Jesus in the lives of others there.  I think of a doctor and a student athlete going to a place called Chisinau, Moldova that they didn’t even know existed a year ago.  I think of a group heading down to Honduras to build an orphanage to provide shelter, care and hope for some of the most needy of God’s children.  I think of another student joining a team to reach out to kids in Mexico.  Though they have been spun out they will return to encourage the body, be built up and hopefully spun out again at the right time.

Yet, the spinning of the Holy Spirit doesn’t necessarily launch us far beyond our political borders. Sometimes it compels us simply to move beyond borders of insecurity, fear of ridicule, even fear of being thought a bit “crazy”.  I know many of you feel that God is spinning you out into your neighborhoods, across the office to another work cubicle, to the other side of the dining commons at UWF, to talk with a woman with a crisis pregnancy, or to learn how to use mime and music to open doors to the gospel.  To this third group we can, and should, all belong.  Sensitive to the pull of God’s Spirit as he works in and through us to love the lost right where we are.   It’s exciting to anticipate what God will do as we respond to his centrifugal force and allow him to launch us into places unknown…like the kitchen of our neighbors house or the break room at work.

Yes, we need time at the center of the spinner.  Yes, sometimes we get bruised and hurt when we are launched out into the world.  Yet,  my prayer is that in the process of growing up in our relationship with Jesus we will also grow out in our relationships with those who have not yet embraced Jesus Christ in faith. If our hearts are truly growing more like Jesus’ heart then they will be softer and more responsive to the “spin” of God as He seeks to reach out with compassion to the lost and hurting of the world.  Always keeping in mind that the first one to get launched off the spinner was Jesus himself.

And keep your chin up if you don’t see immediate results.  I am reminded of a woman from the village of Susleni in Moldova who had been beaten up for following Jesus Christ nine years prior to our arrival there.  She had been praying for nine long years that God would allow the gospel to come to her village and now as a result of her prayers and believers being willing to be “spun” out there is a new evangelical church meeting in the elementary school of her village.  God is faithful!   I Corinthians 15:58