Just Thinking ...
"A man with a big heart!" I heard this phrase over and over from those who came to witness to the life and ministry of Jeff Johnson. No, Jeff was not clergy, even though he studied at Candler School of Theology. Jeff was a lawyer and an excellent layperson at Briarcliff United Methodist Church. He was the person I was priviliged to work closest to as we continued to look for a future for Briarcliff. I can confirm for you that his heart was large and full of love for Briarcliff and for the people who make up the community of faith there. While we did not always agree, we did have a common goal and that was to find the way forward.
How often do you run across a man or a woman in your congregations who has a big heart? As I think back to my days of being a pastor in a local congregation, I remember some really big-hearted people. I find room in the heart of folks like Nancy Yates at Aldersgate UMC, Bob Lee at Elberton First UMC, Kate Bohannan at Moreland, Glenda Gambill at Faith in Cartersville, Jack Yancey at Bright Star, Winn Norris at Zoar, Mary Gorham at McDonough First, and so many others. I imagine if you took the time, you could name as many if not more people whose hearts were big and open to all.
I want to encourage you to look around your congregation this week and to see the big-hearted folks. I want you to take a few moments and give thanks to God for placing these people in your life and ministry. I want you to ask yourself what can you learn from their lives and their ministries to make yours a life and ministry that touches others? I want you to learn how to open your heart to a world that is hurting and broken.
The world needs your big heart to be open wide, because they need the love of Jesus Christ that is within your heart and soul. Yes, we are called to give our all in our preaching, and I encourage you to be diligent in your preparation and delivery. We are to know how to evangelize the community and bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Yet, if our hearts are not big and larger than life, then how will people know that larger than life love of Jesus?
I have been taught so much by so many laity through Sunday School, youth group, Wesley Fellowship, and even through committee meetings (yes, miracles can happen at church meetings). I have been taught to look and listen and learn from their walk with God. I pray I have learned to open my heart wide.
Will you be like these laity and open your heart wide and allow the happy and the smiling, the crying and the frowning, the confident and the doubtful, the person of faith and the person of no faith into your heart? Will you be a person of the warm heart?
I am thankful for the life of Jeff Johnson and how his big heart has changed a church and a people of God. I am thankful that his heart had room for me, his DS. May we honor him and all the others with big hearts by living out a life of faith with our own oversized hearts.
Grateful for Jeff and for you,