So far, we’ve heard Ted and Dan’s story. In our Cow Tipping series, we’ve been looking at a growing amount of research that says 60% of the US population will not be reached by the current forms of organized church. They will not come to “the box.” We’ll need to reboot our lives around the mission of Jesus and go to them in loving, organic, and creative ways. It’s this growing understanding that was the foundation for the conversation we amplified at the AND Conference (by the way, you can check out full session on line).
So, we’re looking together at new ways (that are really old ways) of being the church outside the box.
Let me introduce you to Mike Schafer.
Real life for me began when I accepted Jesus into my heart at age 42 after a six month search for meaning in life, after my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I took the suggestion made by my nephews many years prior to that and started attending Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois every week, while living in Michiana. Under the inspired teaching of Bill Hybels and others, I accepted Jesus as my savior. Then I looked at my gas bill and decided to look for a similar church somewhere in Michiana. I walked into GCC on a Sunday morning at the General Cinema theatre about 20 years ago. It felt very comfortable and a place where I could fit in and learn more about Jesus. I started working on the Sunday morning set-up crew, where I met people who worked to convert the movie theatre into a church every Sunday morning by unloading everything from a truck at an insanely early hour and then setting up and running the technical support for the service and then loading everything back into a truck when the service was over. We would finish loading and walk out the door just as they started making the popcorn for the noon movies. These were radically committed Christians and I wanted to be a part of whatever drove them to get out in all kinds of weather to do this for other people.
Shortly after becoming a Christian, I noticed that I began to actually care about other people and also lost my desire to fill the void in my heart with alcohol. My very patient wife was happy to see these changes in my behavior. I noticed a young man who was also interested in setting up church at the theatre, and he was telling the adults how to run a computer and how to set up and run the sound system. He was only 11 years old, a pit precocious and lacking in what you could call people skills. So I took pity on him and decided he needed someone to protect him. This was my first introduction to the role of a mentor. That young man and I did things together in church and on school projects and in situations he was having with his home life. My wife also became involved with him and his family, and he began to invite his friends to come to church at GCC and experience the love he found there. I didn’t think much about the impact of building such a relationship until one day, while driving him home, he said: “I think God sent you to me”. What he meant was; here are people who walk the talk and actually put the words of Jesus into action. No great heroics, just doing things that seemed the right things to do based on continually asking ourselves, “what would Jesus do” in this situation. When a kid’s toes were peeking out of his shoes, we would just go buy a pair of shoes for him. When he needed to borrow a video camera for a school project, we would just loan him ours. That kind of simple demonstration of unconditional love was what prompted his, “I think God sent you to me” comment.
Kids notice everything, and eventually work up the courage to ask why you do things. When the kids ask why I do these things, I just say it is because I have the love of Jesus in my heart. Then they also want that kind of love in their hearts and soon they are asking to learn more about Jesus and eventually they ask to be baptized at GCC. I don’t cram Jesus down their throats. I wait for them to notice what Jesus has done in my life, and then they want to find that kind of love for themselves. I have the privilege of getting in the water of baptism every year at GCC with kids my wife and I work with. We have now worked with dozens of young people in the 18 years we have been doing this and we still see many of them around the area, now that they have grown up. Just about every day my wife and I drive our two cars somewhere to help some kids who needs the love of Jesus for something. Finding new kids to work with is no problem, because the kids we work with invite their friends to experience what they have found in discovering the love of Jesus in their lives. Jesus has an irresistible attraction and the Jesus many of them first experience is the one they see in us. We never have to look for a new kid to mentor, they always find us.
Our span of care is 8-10 kids at any given time. I am now 64 and have decided it is time to retire from my day job, so I can spend more time with these kids and those whom God brings our way in the future, so we can show the love of Jesus to as many kids as possible, in the time God has left for us on this planet.
We have done whatever is necessary to help the kids we mentor, including providing them shoes, clothing, food, shelter, encouragement, school supplies, tutoring, dental care, counseling, helped them when they run out of gas, are involved in car accidents, appeared in court with them, sent kids to Camp Adventure and SpringHill Camps and taken them to Europe with us, etc. We let them know that we are there for them 24/7. I keep my cell phone by me at all hours, in order to respond whenever life events happen. We believe that investing in them has greater returns than accumulating money in the bank. I remember the advice given to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day, and when you have to, use words.
We have received many comments from the kids over the years, which we cherish. Some of the comments kids have made over the years are listed below.
- I think God sent you to me.
- Can I call you dad?
- You are great!
- Will you come to have lunch with me at my school? My friends don’t think you exist, because I tell them all the things we do together and they think I am just making it all up.
- [From a grade school teacher.] You have made a World of difference in that young man’s life.
- I can talk to you about anything, because I know you will listen and not pass judgment on me.
- I don’t know where I would be without you.
- I used to do drugs and was depressed. Now I have found Jesus and he has turned my life around.
- I have made a life plan to work at McDonalds, then get a job at Walmart and then start mentoring kids like you do.
- You will never die, because you will live forever through us.
I read a comment on a motivational poster which said, “100 years from now nobody will remember what kind of car you drove or how much money you had in the bank, but they will remember that you were important in the life of a child”. Some people search their entire lives for a way to make an impact on the World. We have found a way to make an impact on the World for Jesus Christ.
What is the move of God inside of you waiting to come out?
Who is it that God has already placed in your path and sphere of influence that he are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to?
God still has a physical body today – it’s you and me – the church. Let him move, live, and love through you.