By Rev. Tom Cederblom
Please help me, I have a problem! I’m a pastor and I’m surrounded by people who are saved. My wife is saved, my kids are saved, my secretary is saved, and even my youth pastor is saved. My problem is that I spend ninety-five percent of my time around people who are not lost!
I decided a couple of years ago that I needed to do something about this problem. I realized I needed to be very intentional about getting out into the world that surrounds my church and my home. I made the decision that I was going to venture into the schools of our city as a substitute teacher and walk in the part of the world where many people fear to tread: The world of the elementary school student, the middle school student and the high schooler.
The first thing I recognized was that I needed to follow the example of the One who I was supposed to be following. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (NIV) Jesus understood that He needed to leave the comfort zone of heaven and come down to earth and walk among us.
And so my first day as a substitute teacher I “became flesh” and “made my dwelling” among 4th graders in a Special Education class (God has a sense of humor!) I was scared as I walked the halls of that elementary school. I was nervous, I was uncomfortable, I was without a friend and I was about to enter a classroom with six special needs students.
I survived that day and I have continued to survive for the last 2 years as a substitute teacher, but in the process I have learned a lot about myself and about my “problem”.
My problem is that it’s been awhile since I’ve felt like a visitor. Can you remember what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, to be on someone else’s turf, walking in their territory? People visit our churches all the time and we forget how scary that experience can be for them.
I share with my congregation stories about going into the different schools and I tell them, with humor in my voice, that when I am walking down the hallways as a substitute teacher, it’s as if I am “invisible-man”. Teachers don’t say “hi”, administrators ignore me, and secretaries treat me like I’m not very bright because I don’t know the routine of their school. The only ones who treat me like I’m visible are the students! Now, before you think I am having a pity party, remember my point, we need to be sensitive to what it feels like to be a visitor, again.
My problem is that I am a creature of habit. I need desperately to get out of my comfort zone and walk into the war zone of real life. When I walk into a middle school, my heart starts to beat faster, my mind is very aware of how much I need God’s strength, and my prayer life comes alive with simple phrases like, “Holy Spirit, help me to be ready with the right response when a seventh grader asks me a question,” and “Lord, please help me to make a difference in this place!”
My problem is that I have forgotten how to weep for souls. I need desperately to get around lost people and have my heart broken for their lives, their situations, and their world. It’s amazing how many times a student will just start to talk with me about the things going on in his or her life, and before I realize it, the student has opened up a window into their world. And when I take a brief glimpse into their world I sense the Holy Spirit doing a work on this religious heart of mine.
The Message quotes John 1:14 this way, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” May the Lord help us with our “problem”, may He help us to be intentional in moving into the neighborhood of hurting souls and lost lives.
Rev. Tom Cederblom serves as the senior pastor of Life 360 Church – Calvary Campus in Springfield, MO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.