Updated: Oct 27
Solomon once wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that the end of a thing is better than it's beginning (Ecc. 7:8).
When I was in my early twenties, I got my first word from God. I was sitting in church on Sunday morning, when an older gentleman named Ed Harris walked up and tapped me on the shoulder.
The first odd thing about this was the church I attended. At the time I went to Plainfield Christian Church. It was a conservative Evangelical church, not at all charismatic or Pentecostal. It wasn't the kind of church where people gave words. The second odd thing was the timing. Everyone was sitting there, quietly holding their cracker and grape juice, waiting for the ushers to finish passing out the elements so we could all take communion together. Most people had their head bowed, and so did I. It was during this solemn and introspective moment that I felt a tap on the shoulder. I looked up, and there was Ed.
I knew Ed a little. My mom cleaned his house once a week, and I'd been over there a few times and met Ed and his wife. Ed's son was the head coach for the Boston Celtics at the time, and I remember getting some Celtics sports memorabilia while I was there. I knew Ed, but I really didn't know him that well. Not well enough for him to stop and talk with me at church. Especially not well enough for him to walk up to me during communion to talk. But that's what he did. Ed walked up to me during communion, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "you're going to write a book one day." After that, he turned around and walked away.
It was the oddest thing. But I knew in that moment that this wasn't just a message from Ed. It was a word from God. It was the first time I had a word from God. That word stuck with me.
I've written a handful of books since then. I wrote four books during my seven-year desert journey. Writing helps me process. But when I sat down and started writing "Prostitute," God told me that the word Ed gave me all those years ago was finally being fulfilled.
Writing this book has been a long time coming. It represents the struggle I've had to understand the dissidence I've experienced with church.
It's not like I had any really bad experiences in churches (apart from falling out of a tree and breaking my arm at a church in Australia). For most of my life, I've been a part of good church communities. But starting in my early twenties, I began to recognize that something wasn't right with church. That sense culminated in my late thirties at a Christian Bible college.
At that college, I saw how pastors were trained. I saw that they weren't trained to disciple. In all my own church experiences, that's what had been missing. That's also what I had been looking for. My growing dissidence with church from my twenties on had to do with the Church being more like a business than a family, too much institutional and not enough relational. It's not that the churches I belonged to weren't good in some ways, it's that they weren't good at mentoring younger Christians into Christ. I don't know how I developed the desire for discipleship at such a young age. The youth group at PCC was really good, and I had experienced some mentoring there (shout out to Bob Spanton and Jon Arvin). But after graduating high school, whatever mentoring I had received was over. But my need to be mentored wasn't. After high school what I found was a church with good services and good programs but no discipleship. So, I set out on a quest to understand just what the Church is meant to be in light of what it has become.
It's my passion to understand not only what the Church has been, and what it should be, but to help make the Church more what it should be moving forward. That's why I wrote the book "Prostitute - Calling a Wayward Church back to Christ."
Now this book is complete, and out there in the world. But this book is itself just a beginning. There are three more books, and more books coming after them. But, beyond that, there is the long-term goal of helping the Church get back to the central work it's meant for and meant to be doing. What is that work? The work of discipleship.
As a part of the Church, we all have a part to play in that work. I'm going to keep doing that work. I hope you will too. Amen!