October 9-10, 2004
[A dining room table and four chairs are on stage.]
How many of you have ever been to Canton, Texas? I’ve been there several times. Canton, Texas—the largest flea market in the world they say. I like Canton. A lot of people don’t like Canton. A lot of guys don’t like it. I like it. It’s pretty cool. You can get all sorts of stuff in Canton, Texas.
One time I went to Canton with Lisa. (I kind of got in touch with my feminine side and spent the day with her there.) The demographics at Canton are pretty scary, aren’t they? 99% female to maybe 1% male. All those frenzied females pushing their shopping carts at a NASCAR pace throughout the isles. Looking at all the kknick knacks, antiques, clothing, and jewelry, with sweat dripping off their faces, but they’re smiling! I mean, they’re like, “We’re in Canton, baby! Girl, look at that! That’s incredible!” You know? There’s nothing like Canton, Texas.
After some power shopping—I guess maybe two or three hours—Lisa and I found a food court, if you could call it that. It was pretty much a bunch of picnic tables lined up in the shade. There were some little restaurants around the picnic tables. And there was some heat, like triple degree Texas heat, right out from the shade in between all those barns of all the knick knacks and clothes and antiques. So you could sit at a table and eat and watch the masses file by.
We were finishing our chicken sandwiches, and I noticed a girl from the chicken restaurant walking around. She had samples of food with her, and this girl was in the shade giving samples to all the picnic people who were already full. Now, she tried to give some samples to Lisa and I and we said, “We’re full!” We said, you know, “We don’t care for any samples. We’re eating the chicken right now. We just got it from your restaurant.” And then the girl kind of walked off.
Lisa turned to me, she smiled and she said, “Isn’t that crazy? I mean, all the girl has to do, Ed, is walk 15 to 20 feet out into the heat and give the samples of the bread and chicken to all the people filing by. And then, you know, she could bring people who are hungry into the area and they could buy from the restaurant and sit down at the tables. That would be a cool thing.”
And then the light turned on. I said, “Lisa, that’s the challenge of the church.” I said, “That is where so many churches are in our culture today!” I said, “We are feeding the already fed. We’re handing out samples to the already fed. And all we have to do is walk about 15 or 20 feet out into the heat from the shade and hand the bread, the chicken, the samples to all the humans who are filing by. And we could invite them to the ultimate table, which happens to be the church, and, Lisa, they could find and dine on the bread of life.”
The church is a table where people come to get fed. Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” We talk a lot about protein these days. But in God’s economy, complex carbohydrates are king. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” The ultimate bread, the ultimate food, I think, demands the ultimate presentation. And the challenge that we have as local churches in this culture, and also around the world, is to feed people. It’s to build believers and serve seekers. That’s the two-fold purpose of the church. Say it with me. It’s to build believers and serve seekers.
We have a hunk of people right now who are listening to my voice and you are Christ followers. You’ve stepped over the line. You’re in the family of God. One of the goals of Fellowship Church is to feed you; to feed you the bread of life. I’m the chef. I’m the dude with the food. Food is the word.
Now, we also have a hunk of people here at Fellowship Church who are seekers. And it’s our mandate, not only to build believers, but also to serve seekers. What’s a seeker? A seeker is someone with no Biblical pre-knowledge. A seeker is someone who has not stepped over the line. A seeker is someone who could have grown up in church, yet you’ve never, ever established a personal connection with God through Jesus Christ.
At Fellowship Church we are set up to reach both. We want to build believers and serve seekers. So to do that, we have the opportunity week in and week out to serve the bread of life. And the ultimate food deserves the ultimate presentation. I’m not talking about paper napkins or plastic forks or Styrofoam cups or a weenie roast here. I’m talking about serving, in a creative and compelling way, the food, the bread of life.
Do you like to have people over to your house to eat? Do you like to? Lisa and I do. We have people over all the time. It’s fun. It’s kind of sad, though, that entertaining is a lost art these days. A lot of people don’t want to do it.
When we invite people over to our home, what do we do? Well, we first of all ask them to come over. Call them up and say, “Hey, would you like to come over? Does your schedule fit?” And then we will ask them, “Okay, what kind of food do you like? What kind of food don’t you like?” And then, if they say yes, we set a time and a night.
Then what do we do? We work. Our family does the work. The guests don’t do the work. We do the work and clean the house—not that the house is not clean, but we clean it more. And we think about the food and we think about the ambiance. We’ll light some candles, turn on some soft music and serve the food in a compelling and imaginative way.
Now, when our family eats, when it’s just us, we don’t always do that. We oftentimes eat on paper plates and we use paper cups and napkins and all that. Sometimes the kids will burp now and then, throw some food. But before guests come over, man! We give our kids a pep talk. “Hey kids, no burping. No food fighting. Put your napkin in your lap.” It’s about the guests. It’s about other people.
Question: Are we being compromising when we do that? Are we kind of watering down the food? Are we going soft when guests come over? No! We’re just being strategic. We’re being smart. We’re being, hopefully, good hosts and hostesses. We [the church] have the opportunity to serve the bread of life, the cosmic carbohydrate, to a hungry world that’s filing by. What is the church to do? Do we stay in the shade and feed the already fed, feed the already full? Or do we step out into the heat, into the elements, and serve the bread of life to all those people filing by in your life and mine?
When you entertain people, do you think about guests? Yes, you do. Well, every weekend we entertain people at Fellowship. And we think about the family. Our church family does some incredible serving—all the servants here that help put this thing on—to help put this meal on. But also, we think about the guests. We think about the people who are outside the family of God.
We think about the people whose lives are falling apart. We think about the couple whose marriage is hanging in the balance. We think about the single adult who thinks there’s no direction, who is dealing with large levels of loneliness. We think about the student who might be contemplating ending it all. We think about all those people. We think about the table, because the church is the table. We think about the bread, because the bread is the word. We think about the dude with the food. And we think about who’s in the chairs. Who’s in the chairs?
This invitation is pretty important. John 4:34, Jesus said, “My food…is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” Jesus said, “My food … is to do the will of Him (that’s God) who sent me and to finish His work.” Entertaining takes work, doesn’t it? And I figured out that’s why a lot of people don’t do it, because it takes so much work. It’s like, “Man, let’s just go out to a restaurant!” And that’s cool. But to entertain, to think about the guests, to defer to them, and to serve the food in an imaginative and creative, compelling way? It takes a lot of work. You’ve got to get outside yourself to do that, don’t you? You’ve got to think about other people. You’ve got to think about the cuisine. You’ve got to think about the conversation. You’ve got to think about the context of the conversation and the cuisine, because you want the best meal possible. You want the best experience possible.
When I’m not speaking at Fellowship Church, oftentimes I’ll attend Fellowship Church because I’m still here. Last weekend I loved hearing Tianne speak. She spoke to my heart. When I pulled into the Fellowship Church parking lot, I just sat in my truck for a while and looked around. And I saw all the people filing in. It was so thrilling to me to see so many people from so many walks of life coming to Fellowship Church. Some different economic levels, different color skins, white collar, pink collar, purple collar, whatever you want to say. All sorts of people were flooding into Fellowship Church. And I saw people that I know pursuing and I saw people with other people who obviously didn’t know Christ. I saw these Christians bringing people who didn’t know Christ to Fellowship Church. That thrilled my heart. I mean, I’m saying, “Man, these people are putting the ball through the net. They get it. They understand the essence, the mission of the church—which is to build believers and serve seekers. They get it.
Then, though, I saw some people that I know who have been around Fellowship Church for a long, long time and they were alone. And, yeah, I’ll cut people some slack—two, three, or four weekends without bringing someone. But I said to myself, “You know, I wonder if they are handing out the bread of life? I wonder if they’re out there in the heat handing out samples of the real meal? I wonder if they’re out there saying, ‘Hey, I want you to come to Fellowship Church. I want you to get fed. I want you to experience this meal,’” which, incidentally, starts the moment you pull into the parking lot and the moment you drop your kids off. It continues when maybe you grab some coffee or a cookie. And hopefully, it culminates when you walk in here and you’re focused on God. And when the word is opened, when the word is articulated, then the Holy Spirit does its thing. Then we’re fed, and the people who are hungry get fed. And then we push away from the table and serve others and use ourselves. Hopefully that’s what happens week in and week out. But it starts with you and me inviting people to Fellowship.
Whenever I develop a talk—you might call them sermons, or whatever—but whenever we’re planning a worship service; when Rob Johnson, Michael Higdon, Vanessa, Yanci, and I are in a meeting; whenever we do anything at Fellowship Church, we think about a table. Because the church is the table where people come to get fed. And we also think about chairs. Basically, three chairs. Every time we have a service here, there’s three chairs because a healthy church should be made up of thirds. A third should be mature believers. A third should be baby believers, brand new Christians. And the other third should be hell-bounders. I’m talking about skirt-chasing, cocaine-snorting, wheeling, dealing lost sinners. That’s the healthy church.
If you ever hear someone say, “You know, the healthy church is full of mature Christians,” they’re clueless about the Bible. “Well the healthy church should just be full of baby Christians;” they’re clueless about the Bible. The church should be full of thirds, because, watch this now, if the mature are doing what they should be doing, what are they doing? They’re inviting their lost friends to Fellowship Church! They’re serving them samples of the bread of life. They’re one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. And then these hell-bounders are becoming Christ followers.
So the hell bounders are becoming Christ followers, they’re baby Christians. And then they’re becoming mature Christians as they push away from the table and serve. And you have this beautiful ecosystem going. You have this beautiful environment going. You have a healthy, full, and robust meal being served at a beautiful table.
I want to talk to the Christians for a second. What part are you playing in this process? You’re a believer; you’re a Christ follower. Are you really handing out samples of the bread of life to people that God has placed in your life? Who’s in your life right now that’s hungry? Names are popping out right now in your mind. A neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, or a family member. Someone you’ve just gotten to know. What are you doing about it?
“Well, Ed I need to know more.” No you don’t. If you know Christ personally, you know enough. Yeah, we all need to know more. That’s important, but you need to pray for those people. And pray for God, that he would give you the opportunity to share, to give those samples out to people who are so very hungry.
You see, we give out samples to people by the way we talk, by the places we go, by our language, by our business practices, by our attitude, by our actions. And as a Christian, have you forfeited the opportunity to really get out there and hand out samples of the bread of life by your behavior?
We have the opportunity to do that, to hand out samples of food. What are you doing in this process? Are you inviting people to Fellowship Church? Because as a believer, that’s your food. That’s your food.
We work like crazy at Fellowship Church—and we love doing it—to prepare the meal, to prepare food. That’s why at Fellowship we have a mantra. We say this, “It’s the weekend, stupid.” Do you remember James Carville? I’m not a big fan of James Carville, but you remember James Carville? Yeah, he headed up the Bill Clinton campaign years ago and did a great job. He had a sign on his desk that said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And Bill Clinton won. Bill Clinton won because of that, and he also won because of Ross Perot. That’s a whole other story.
“It’s the weekend, stupid.” That’s the most important thing any church does, any time, anywhere, any place. The weekend. All the other activities are important, they’re vital—small groups and youth activities, and children’s ministries and all that stuff. But the weekend is that corporate time, it is when the ultimate presentation is given. So we should work very, very hard as leaders who prepare the food for the weekend, for the big meal.
And so should you, as Christ followers. We should think about that. We should pray about the weekend, because so many people who come to Fellowship Church each and every weekend are without Christ. Things are right there teetering in their lives. They’re right there, just hanging in balance. And as the Holy Spirit works, as the Word is presented, great things occur. But we’re not going to give a half-baked presentation of the bread of life. We’re not going to do that, because people matter to God. And they matter to God so much that we must work as hard as possible to give a creative and compelling and innovative word to every single person that comes in contact with the church.
It’s always sad, you know. The church should not say, “How do I become creative?” That’s the wrong question. The church should say, “What are those barriers that are keeping us from unleashing the kind of innovation and the kind of preparation that God wants?” So a church should not stand out when it grows so much or when it does stuff in a different way. That should be the norm.
All you have to do is thumb through the pages of Scripture and see that God used word pictures and illustrations to communicate his truth and message to so many people. You’ve heard me say this before. He used a piece of fruit with Adam and Eve. He used some salt with Lot. He used a boat and a whale with Jonah. He used, ultimately, a cross with the world. And those of us who were leading in the church, we must use creativity and use our uniqueness as leverage to take kingdom turf for the nature and the glory of God.
Jesus told Simon Peter this, he said [John 21:18], “Feed my sheep.” So as a teacher, I’m a chef. I’m kind of like Emeril or the late Julia Child or the great Dean Ferring here in Dallas. That’s kind of my vibe. So, if I’m the dude with the food, I’ve got to work like crazy and be strategic like crazy to serve it in ways that people can understand it. And our goal at Fellowship Church is not to muddy up the food. It’s not to make the food so complex that no one understands it. Because the Bible in many different ways is very, very complex.
It’s easy for me to keep the complex complex. I have no problem doing that. I’ve been to seminary, taken the Hebrew and the Greek, and that would be easy for me to talk over your heads like that. You go, “Whoa! What is Ed talking about? What does he mean by that? I have to look four or five of those words up!” I can talk Christianese.
But here’s what I learned a long time ago. Jesus used the street language of the day. That’s how Jesus communicated. He used the street language. So as a communicator of God’s truth, I need to be simple. Not simplistic, simple. Because I discovered something years ago: No one understands anything unless they can explain it in a very simple way. So everyone, when we serve the food, must understand its food and here are the utensils and here’s how to eat it and here’s how to digest it and here’s how to live it out.
One of my favorite restaurants in Dallas is a Vietnamese restaurant called the East Wind—great place! I love Asian food. East Wind has a classic menu, because on the menu, it’s written in the Vietnamese. But then, thank God, below that Vietnamese it’s written in English. I love that. I love that.
Well, as a Christ follower first, as a pastor second, as a communicator third, I can easily talk in Vietnamese. But what should I do? I can talk Vietnamese some. But I’d better explain it. Because remember, I’ve got mature believers here and I’ve got brand new believers there and I’ve got hell-bounders. Well, if they’re over at my house and we’re having a meal, if I’ve invited guests over and I launch into a story about salt water fly fishing, I don’t just launch into the story, “Hey, I hooked a tarp in this past summer and a hammerhead shark tried to eat the tarpon. It was incredible!” And that was a true story. I don’t just say that, though. I go, “Hey, you know, I don’t know if you know this, but my favorite thing in the world to do is fly fishing. Fly fishing is unique. It’s not like your typical conventional fishing.”
Then I explain fly fishing and say something like, “I like to go to Florida in this one spot that does a lot of tarpon fishing. I try to go there every year. And I know some people down there. I’ve even preached down there at a church. I love it. Tarpon Community Church, you know. [audience laughter] No. I’m joking.” But I’ll explain and bring people up to speed. And then I’ll launch into the story. Any host who is in the game is going to do that. Bring everybody up to context. The cuisine, the conversation, the context.
And that’s simply what we’re doing here at Fellowship Church. I might launch into a story about Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah. I might launch into a story about sanctification or justification or talk about the entities of the Trinity. But before God, I’m going to explain it in a way that people can get it. We want our music to be music that people can connect with and understand. Because remember, it’s about the thirds.
Jesus said in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” And here’s what fires me up about Fellowship Church. I want to applaud your work ethic. You people blow me away. I’ve seen it for 14 years. The work ethic that you show by inviting people, through service and prayer and diligence, through your preparation, conversations with God and with stepping up in so many ways. It is just so inspirational to me.
There have been many, many weekends where I’m kind of feeling down, and I’m like, “You know, I’m the dude with the food, but I don’t feel like cooking this weekend.” But I’ll see an act of service, I’ll see someone bring someone else or I’ll know that person is a person without Christ or I’ll know this person has a marriage problem or I know that person just experienced a death and is asking these big questions and going through all these issues, and that just energizes me. So thank you, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. But see, we can’t stop here. We have to continue doing the stuff.
The preparation is a huge piece. But also, there’s the presentation as well. When we serve the food, we have to serve the food, as I said earlier, where people can get it and understand it. You know, we don’t just throw the food on the table and say, “Do with it what you want. Just throw the food, play in the food, we’re not going to give you utensils.”
No, no, no, we’re not going to do that. We want to show people and give them answers about how to take the food and receive the food. So every time we do something we think about the chairs.
Earlier I said this, “The twofold purpose at Fellowship Church is what? To build believers and to serve seekers.” Right? To build believers and to serve seekers. And here’s the question, here’s the tension that should always be in the church. How much do you play something, do you angle something towards believers; and how much do you play something and angle something toward the seeker? I love that tension. And that tension has been with us for 14 years at Fellowship Church. And it will always be with us. That’s one of the reasons we plan with the team approach. That’s one of the reasons we talk to so many people. That’s one of the reasons we get input from so many different areas. Because it helps us to formulate these weekends that build believers and also serve seekers.
Here’s the challenge we have, though. And I’ll talk about this more next week. As you know, I did not want to come to Dallas/Fort Worth to start a church. I did not want to come up here. I love Dallas/Fort Worth, but I did not want to come up here. I wanted to go somewhere like Las Vegas, Nevada. I wanted to go somewhere like Montreal, Canada. I wanted to go to California or somewhere in South Florida, maybe Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. I did not want to come to Dallas/Fort Worth. Why? Because, I thought there were too many churches here. Too many churches, too many ministries, too many seminaries, too many televangelists. I did not want to come up here. I wanted to go somewhere where there was a lot of spectacular sinning going on, you know, a lot of people who where totally clueless, totally out there about Christianity.
You know, I’ve grown up in the church. I grew up in a Pastor’s home, and I thought I knew a lot about the world—until my parents and I parted ways. Not in a bad way, but we parted ways when I was 18 and I went to school at Florida State, which was a pretty crazy place and I’ll talk about in a second. That, though, helped me so much. God used Florida State in my life to really assist me in seeing not only the life of believers, but also the life of those people who had no concept about God, Christ, the church or whatever. And God used that in a mighty way.
So we moved to Dallas and God led, which he had to do to get Lisa and I up here. I thought, you know, it’s just a place full of Christians. And you know, there’s not a lot of people out there who don’t know Christ personally. Well, man! That’s not true at all. Man, there’s a lot of spectacular sinning going on right here in Dallas. There’s a lot of people who are totally outside the family of God. And there’s also a lot of people who are in church, but don’t even know Christ personally.
Here’s what blows me away about the Dallas/Fort Worth area. And I’ll develop this more next time. Dallas/Fort Worth has a number of Bible studies and churches that are diet driven. Diet-driven churches and Bible studies. In other words, they concentrate on the word of God. And they concentrate on studying the Bible. And they feed on Scripture, which we have to do. Oh, we have to dine on Scripture. Yet, what’s so odd is, these churches and Bible studies are diet driven. Okay, hold that thought for a second.
What does the medical community say? If you want to live a long life, do what? Eat well, diet, and… What? I can’t quite hear you up here. Exercise! Diet and exercise! God began to show that to me about 15 years ago. Diet and exercise. So, it’s more than just diet.
Yet, for so many of these churches, even around our country, and Bible studies—it’s all about just the Bible. And [they say] if you, you know, eat the Bible, eat the Word, dine on the word, then that’s enough. Just a diet, diet, diet, diet, diet. Well, the Bible says from cover to cover it’s diet and what? Exercise! Diet and exercise. We have to eat the right food. Oh, we’ve got to get into the Word. We’ve got to study. We’ve got to break it down. We’ve got to know this stuff. But we’ve got to do it. We have got to do it.
And here is the call of our church and every church out there. Every church, every Bible study should be a diet and exercise entity. Feed on it. And then the food will give you the energy to do what? To push away from the table and get out there and do the stuff.
How do you build believers? Believers are fed. They consume the bread of life. They don’t just get fat. They don’t just sit there and say, “Feed me, feed me, feed me.” Because you can turn into, “Hey, hey, hey! I’m fat Albert!” You know? You can’t even see your feet any more you’re so spiritually fat.
But the challenge is we build believers. We feed believers, get them to push away from the table, and then exercise as they do what? Serve seekers! As they serve in the church and serve seekers. And then the seekers come to the table, they get fed. And you have this beautiful process going on.
And here’s another thing that’s so fascinating about diet driven churches. One would think diet driven churches would reach a lot of people. But in my studying, they really don’t reach a lot of skirt-chasing, cocaine-snorting, hell-bound people. They don’t. Because what happens is they get eaten up with pride. And they become so fat they don’t know how to work out any more. And that’s again what’s so awesome about Fellowship Church. We’re a diet and exercise church. So we invite people, we prepare the food, and then we present the food before God in a creative and compelling way. We speak to the chairs.
And I think about several series we’ve done in the past. I just jotted some of these down, like “Multiple Choice.” You know, we try to serve a balanced diet around here. And I’ve discovered something, because I’m the dude with the food. Believers are in the throws of making a lot of decisions, and so are babies, and so are hell-bounders. So we did a series of talks on “Multiple Choice.” It’s amazing how many people in the Bible, in God’s Word made decisions. We didn’t call it “Decision Making God’s Way.” We didn’t call it “Biblical Decision Making.” No. We didn’t do that. We called it “Multiple Choice.” A title that everyone could get. Do you hear me screaming?
“The Real F-Word: Forgiveness” The real F word? Whoa! Forgiveness. Man, that relates to someone going to hell doesn’t it? That relates to a baby believer. It relates to a mature believer. It relates to a pastor. I told you about some junk that I was holding on to that I’d not dealt with in my life as well.
Remember I did a series called “Snap Shots of the Savior”? It was when Mel Gibson’s great movie “The Passion” came out. We just talked about different snap shots from the life of Jesus Christ. Everyone can identify with that. It’s Christianity 101, 201, and 301.
“RPMs: Rating Potential Mates”—remember when we talked about that? The RPM thing. Finding the ultimate mate. That’s the second most important decision we’ll ever make.
I just finished up one called “Questions.” We all have questions. We should ask questions. The believer should ask questions. The new believer should ask questions. And the hell-bounder should ask questions. And I said in this series, you know, a lot of you are just one question away from eternity.
One of the things we try to do, too, is we try to be consistently inconsistent at Fellowship Church. “Well, why do you try to do that?” We try to be consistently inconsistent because Jesus was consistently inconsistent. He never communicated the same way. His theology was the same, but his methodology changed. He drew in the sand, sat on a boat bow, picked up a child, pointed to a sower, and talked about a building falling over. He used parables, word pictures, and humor. He always changed. We want to be consistently inconsistent.
Have you ever been to that restaurant in Deep Ellum called The Green Room? It’s got to be at least in my top 3 favorite restaurants, The Green Room. The Green Room and East Wind, I mean they’re right there one and two. Have you been to The Green Room? You haven’t? Man, if you haven’t, you need to go. Deep Ellum. It’s great. The first time I went to The Green Room Lisa and I, you know, showed up. And you know Deep Ellum is an artsy, cool, hip place. So we’re sitting down in this restaurant, you know, that is unique—unique art work and stuff, kind of a strange ambiance. Strange in a good way! And we’re sitting there, “Wow, I wonder if the food is going to be good? I don’t know. You look great tonight, Lisa.” You know, talking.
So the waiter comes up and here’s what he said. He said, “Do you have any food allergies?” I go, “No.” He said, “Are any foods like you don’t like?” “Well, let me see…No. Lisa and I pretty much like all foods.” He goes, “Well, you need to get the chef’s specialty.” We said, “What’s that?” He said, “It’s called ‘Feed Me.’” “Really?” And he said, “Yeah. The chef just creates this stuff. You don’t know what he’s going to bring. It’s called ‘Feed me’ and it is really cool! You ought to try it.” “Lisa, this sounds great! Let’s try that. ‘Feed Me.’”
So sure enough, this creative chef started bringing this stuff. It was the most creative meal ever! And every time I go to The Green Room, “Feed Me. Just, just feed me.” Well, I want Fellowship Church to be a “Feed Me” church, you know? I want people to go, “What’s coming next. Who’s speaking next? What kind of video, what kind of song? What… what… WOW!” Consistently inconsistent. Being simple not simplistic. And serving a balanced diet as we serve the bread of life.
As I said earlier, I went to Florida State. I thought I knew a lot about the world until I went down there. Man, Tallahassee is a crazy place, especially playing athletics. College athletics? Man, pretty wild. Pretty crazy people. That’s just the way it is. I had never really been around that many people who were that nuts. And I was 18. I roomed with a guy named Greg, not a believer. And after about two or three days, he looked at me, “Man, Ed, I mean, what is wrong with you, brother? I mean, I’ve never met someone like you before.” He said, “I don’t understand why you don’t do this and why you do that. And man, tell me about this stuff.”
So I told him. And he said, “Nah, man. I don’t believe that stuff.” He didn’t say “stuff,” I’m just editing the story, okay? I said, you know, “Whatever.” So, you know, over the ensuing months (I’m a Freshman, he’s an upper classman) he kind of made fun of my Christianity. And some of the teammates did. But after a while as I, by God’s grace, stood for my faith, people began to respect me. And everything was cool. I roomed with Greg for two years at Florida State, my freshman year and my sophomore year.
One time I went to church with Greg and I saw church through his eyes. Since I saw church through his eyes, I’ve never been the same because of that. Never, ever, ever. Because this guy was totally clueless about Christianity, about the church. And when I saw that church, a good church, doing good church in churchy ways, I said to myself, “Wow! They’re speaking Christianese. And they’re doing songs and stuff that he can’t connect with. Is there a way you can do both? Is there a way that you can build believers and serve seekers?”
I left Florida State after my sophomore year. I felt led to go into the ministry, so I gave up the scholarship and moved to Houston, and you know the rest of the story. I went to seminary and all that. Worked at Dad’s church on a volunteer basis. And worked full time for a while. Then in 1990, Lisa and I came up here to help start Fellowship Church. And I kind of lost contact with Greg. I hadn’t really talked to him. Maybe now and then a couple of times, but nothing significant, until a couple of days ago. I called him. And I found out that he has a couple of months to live. He has cancer. And you know, I talked to him a little bit and I could tell, you know, he was still very cynical, very angry for some reason, you know, toward God.
I said, “Greg, you know, I want to thank you for your friendship. Because,” I said, “you know, when we started Fellowship Church—and really for the last 14 years—you’re one of the people that I thought about when I planned Fellowship Church. You were one of the people I thought about in meetings. You’re one of the people I thought about before I preached hundreds of sermons. You were one of the people I thought when we planned songs and hired staff and built buildings and chose backgrounds. You are one of the people, Greg, that I thought about.” There was silence and then he said, “Well, I’m glad I could help you.” I said, “Hey man, I’ll try to contact you in the next couple of weeks.”
And that afternoon after I talked to Greg, a couple of days ago, I was lifting weights with my friend. I was on the incline bench, or something like that, I think, and I heard this song over the loud speaker by the Newsboys. [The song “Breakfast in Hell” begins to be played in the background] And the words go like this:
When The Toast Is Burned,
And All The Milk Has Turned
And Cap’n Crunch Is Wavin’ Farewell.
When The Big One Finds You
May This Song Remind You
That They Don’t Serve Breakfast, In Hell.
And when I heard that song, it was really crazy. I saw a quick image of Greg in our apartment, I don’t know why, eating a bowl of cereal. So, you know, I pray I never get over the fact that people like Greg are dying real deaths and facing a real Christ-less eternity. I pray I never get over that. And I pray that Fellowship Church doesn’t either.