I grew up in a healthy church. It wasn’t perfect, but it was life-giving by the power of God.
Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena was Bible-believing and Christ-honoring. It was gospel-centered long before that was cool. It was evangelistic without pressuring people. It was family-friendly without excluding others. It was theologically responsible without being nerdy and tiresome. It was cheerful, not tense and explosive, a fun place to go. It was like growing up in a spiritual neighborhood with lots of aunts and uncles in the Lord who cared about us but didn’t spoil us. Above all, it was hyper-focused on Jesus with a glad determination that was compelling to me.
At the time, I took it for granted. I thought all churches were like this. I hadn’t seen anything else. Now I know what a rare treasure such a church really is.
Basically, all I want out of life, from here on out, is (1) to walk with the Lord and with Jani lovingly until the end, (2) to enjoy and love my children and grandchildren and help them as much as I can, and (3) to raise up healthy churches for the next generation, so that Lake Avenue Church-type of Christianity goes strongly into the future. Some churches don’t even have the categories to grasp how wonderful their life together can be. They might never understand. What we need is to plant more healthy, non-weird, revival-ready churches, so that the beauty of a biblical church does not die. The style is changing, but the essence is enduring. And I confess, with gratitude and wonder, that the Lord is giving us a taste of this beauty at Immanuel Church in Nashville. I rejoice.
Here in the Bible Belt, there must be an end to the religiously-inflicted pain. Or at least, the beginning of the end. A new era of shalom must start somewhere. The religiously-wounded must have somewhere to go, some place where they will be safe from attack, where they can heal through the gospel and live again. I grew up in such a church. I experienced it. I have a living memory of it. By God’s grace, there will be more, not less, of such beauty in the future.