What a week it’s been. Because of Bernie’s illness it’s been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster – though knowing that we’re both being so thoroughly prayed for makes a difference.
Since my last post I’ve hung out with a bunch of guys who are restoring Volkswagens of various sorts. Many of them are working on what these guys call buses (we call ’em Kombis), but some, like a new friend, Bryan are working on the ubiquitous Beetle. Bryan’s in an early 60s bug that he dug out of a barn somewhere. Another guy with a distinctive NY accent had this amazing gold VW convertible. Real salt of the earth guys, meeting over bloke food and beer (coke in our case), with a couple of women as friends who got it. One has become a link to the airlines in case I need to change plans drastically in a hurry – “whatever I can do to help” seems to be a kind of Charlottean motto.
I’ve started my conversations with a number of staff members, including the Worship Director simply known as “J”; a consultant who also has a lot to do with the EPC, the Chief Operations Officer (who oversees all the finance, property and ministry support functions), and a man who easily stands astride the gap between genius and quirkiness. His name is Michael Haun and he leads the ministry to families (supposed be to the kids) at Forest Hill. He and a team of enthusiastic young fellow workers run The Big Deal. It’s guiding philosophies include that it’s a sin to bore people with the gospel, and that it’s the parents responsibility to bring up their kids. His other inspiration is a mad cartoonist called Rube Goldberg (google it, you’ll see what I mean.) This morning 250 kids and at least one parent showed up for about 40 minutes of a simple talk with a dramatic presentation that made the point that to listen to God you have to shut up some of the background noise. He makes things like an air cannon to shoot prizes out into the crowd as the finishing touch to the morning. But it doesn’t all begin and end at the church; every family present gets issued with a “Deal With It” card that recaps the main points, gives the key verse and then raises questions for the family to explore at the dinner table. Before coming to Forest Hill, Michael used to travel around as a professional story-teller, I’d have loved to have seen that. His genius show in his ability to invent things out any old rubbish. He really is justified in the expression, “I never throw anything out, you never know what it might be good for.” The stage looks like it; though that’s deliberate.
Quite a remarkable man and not averse to the idea of bringing his talent to NZ for a visit. He’s mad enough to do it.
Other things I learnt was what the economies of scale can achieve. This church collects around ½ a million dollars every month just in offerings, from 4000 people who attend every weekend. Thus they have a staff of 70 people doing everything from planning services, to reaching out to the poor, to mowing the lawns (they’ve got 25 acres to care for). The place is bristling with the most amazing technology for every aspect it’s work. The team to run the tech part of the service is about six or seven not counting the cameramen.
This morning David preached to a crowd that included a very livewire bunch of teenagers the younger of whom came to the front during worship and moshed and air-punched their way through the first two songs, loudly applauding each song. David was challenging those graduating from High School to make a firm decision for the Lord before they get off to College and come under all the temptations that the secular, educational world has to offer. He spoke of Daniel’s early decision not to compromise with the Babylonian culture. Good stuff, great challenge.
Stay afloat and look for the wave of God.