Years ago my parents had a lot on a river called Spring River and it was just that, “a spring!” I mean it was super cold, even in the dead of summer. I think the temperature was something like 55 degrees year round, and many people would stay clear of swimming in it for that very reason. For me it was different. Every year when the weather started warming up I would go to the lot, which was located by a deep hole of water, and take a big run and jump into the river without any advance “sticking my toe in the water or wading out a little at a time, or even splashing some of the water over my back to adjust to the freezing cold of the river.” I mean, no preparation, an all out sprint and then jump!! I remember when sailing through the air prior to hitting the cold water thinking, “this is really going to hurt!” But then I hit it. All under! Totally immersed in the cold water and far from shore, so no jumping back out quickly. I know, it all sounds so juvenile, but for me it was a rite of passage. I could handle the cold of the water, and it actually refreshed me. I would come out of the water and go WHOOOOO. Then I would proceed to swim in that cold water for the rest of the afternoon and never notice the cold anymore. I would usually take some of my friends down there with me when I was going to jump in for the first time of the year, and some of them would follow my lead, and some would say “no way!” The latter would usually prompt a “chicken” comment from me. Why? Because I was brave (or stupid) enough to jump in without first testing the water. I knew it was cold, so what’s to test? I just had to convince myself it was worth the initial blast of cold on my body. The great thing about that lot was there was a set of falls above it and below it and they were great to body surf over, but if you didn’t get in the water, no fun on the falls!! The rite of passage did have reward, if you like that kind of stuff, and I do. Many times I would make the body surfing look so fun, the otherwise non jumping friends would eventually do the jump and come in for some body surfing also. Usually they would come up out of the water saying, “you are crazy.” To which I would say, “yeah, crazy fun!” As I think about that lot and my youth years I have to think “what if I didn’t jump in every spring?” What if I just stayed away from the lot and didn’t even attempt to use it for swimming and having fun? What a waste!! Then all the refreshment of that super cold water would be missed by me and all the friends who fought back their fears. I would hate to think that I would just ignore the possibility of some great excitement because I just didn’t care. The point is, I did care and I miss that lot and that rite of passage and even at 59 years of age, I would still make the leap….I promise. I mean, I love that kind of stuff!!!
I’m kind of that way with ministry too. I look at people in churches today and they are sitting on the shore not wanting to get into the water because they “think it’s too cold or uncomfortable.” When in reality, it’s very resfreshing and fun. I have been a risk taker in ministry for years, I just can’t help it. Years ago God gave me a burden for reaching more students than just our community and I started a Student Conference called Student Renewal in a town of 10,000 population. The first year of the Conference we had 260 in attendance, but I knew it was the start of something much larger. The next year we had 970 in attendance and the last year we had over 1500 students and adults attend the conference. We had speakers like Josh McDowell, Dawson McAllister, and many other notables who shared their message of Christ with those who attended. The year we had Dawson McAllister we had over 300 students make decisions for Christ and it was an awesome year. When diving off into this conference planning, I had many people ask, “why do you want to do such a thing?” To which I would reply, “because I can.” I believe the over 85 churches who brought their students to the event would say, “thank you.” In fact, they did just that again and again. Our students and adults poured their lives into the conference, believing, like I did, that God was up to something special and the changed lives were proof positive of God’s presence in the whole thing. Godly businessmen gave funds to help make the conference cost friendly and accessible to anyone and God blessed the effort with great results. It was kind of cool when I went to the next church we served in and they said, “can you do that here too?” They wanted someone who would “jump in the cold water” without testing it, hoping for a great movement of God at that church. In reality, we are all looking for the “jumper” in each of us, but we forget the faith that it takes to actually jump. I know many times in planning Student Renewal I would, like in the air before hitting the water, think “if this fails, this is gonna hurt.” But I jumped anyway, and just like getting to body surf on the falls down from our lot, I got to body surf on the great things God brought out of that conference. I would have loved to keep that conference growing and touching lives, but I couldn’t find anyone else who believed in it enough to jump in the water with me. Who knows what others missed by not getting to keep Student Renewal going in the lives of this generation. It was a formula, a formula that worked, but alas, the water was just too cold for some.
In looking back, I am so thankful that God put me through that rite of passage into a realm of ministry that was far reaching and I will say the shock of all that it brought along with it was refreshing and well worth the jump. I just wish I could have gotten more people to jump in to experience the thrill of stepping out in faith and seeing God do something awesome!! From time to time I will get an email or call from a student who’s life was changed at Student Renewal and it fires that passion back up because I know what God can do in students lives when the right questions are asked. But the fire finally goes back to an ember when the reality of our world kicks in and I realize how little funds I have to support it. Perhaps the hold up is my lack of faith, or the reality of how much more things cost today. Whichever it is, Student Renewal is no more and even though I still believe it is a viable ministry effort, the water is too cold for even me. I know my oldest son giving his testimony about purity and my oldest daughter singing in front of over a thousand people molded them into some great servants for Christ, so I get to see the benefits every time I marvel at the accomplishments they have had in their lives. He is a Godly doctor who impacts many lives every day and she is still singing and leading conferences of her own. To God be the glory. Great things he has done!!!
The Pilgrimage continues..