Friday, October 06, 2006

Kevin Swanson: Our Greatest Strength

Kevin Swanson is the executive director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado and pastor of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Castle Rock, CO.
Our Greatest Strength

We want to see change in a lasting reformation. In many years in ministry himself and with his missionary parents, Kevin has seen a desire for a ministry that doesn't dissipate when the blitz is over. His father summarized it as “a generational vision – a powerful message and a Reformation agenda: God is source of man's reality, ethics, and truth.” We say that God is God but reserve parts of our existence that we think God doesn't address.

Kevin's father wrote several books, his first being a translation of a creationist treatise into Japanese.

“It takes something more than ideas and an agenda to change the way we live.” Kevin said they started the church and preached the message strongly but it was not enough.

The challenge of a church: A strong vision is not enough. The problem with modern man – he is lost and lonely. The return of relationships is fraught with problems: our society is not built for relationships, due to its transiency and conflicts. The megachurch hopes by programs and sheer size to be a lasting institution; however, it actually produces short term relationships based on a shared interest groups.

“The inherent weakness of the small church is it forces people to get to know each other ... but as we come closer to each other, we find we desire to come deeper in the relationships with each other and with God. However, when you pursue these things, they tend to stir up conflict.”
Depth in relationship and depth in truth require longsuffering and love if you're going to survive.

“As I faced these monumental challenges and tried to ford these waters and preach these messages to God's people ... I didn't know how we were going to survive, but God had mercy on us.”

Kevin shared the stories of two boys with massive handicaps, one of whom starved to death in the hospital with the newspapers covering; the other is cared for and welcomed by the church in Castle Rock. The family of the one, with Christian parents, had his life support withdrawn by his parents and he died over a twenty-one day period. “The only way you can keep the law of God is to love God, and to love Dylan [the boy who died],” even though they are a trial and cause us pain, every day.

Simon's family, the Nelsons, continues to care for their profoundly troubling son. It stresses the family tremendously, as well as the church. Yet the death of Dylan was a failure of the body, his church.

“Brothers, the challenge that faces us in the modern world is whether or not I am going to support the Nelson family today.”

This is the blessing of Simon. He almost a church growth program:

“When you join our church, you join Simon. That's how central he is to the church, he defines us. Simon almost dies about once a month. We get the e-mail: 'Simon's dying again,' and we cry out to God, and He answers, and He heals him again. When you leave, you leave Simon. Simon worships with us. Simon has taught us to love, and not the fluffy stuff – but the self-immolating kind. But one thing I know about the church is it's very fragile, and any one person can roll a hand grenade in the church. But in our church, we've got Simon. Simon protects our church. Nobody is going to mess with our church because they're not going to blow up Simon. God's strength is made perfect in Simon.”

A few years ago, a widow indeed showed up. Heide was a homeschooling mother with no support from anywhere, and it became apparent that the only supporting organization was going to be the Castle Rock Church. The church now supports her to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 a year, while at the same time dealing with the spiritual issues she needs addressed as well.
Kevin also told of a single woman, Nancy, a new convert, who joined the church and wanted to be discipled and prepared for Christian marriage, without a family to help her at all. She has lived with four different elders' families to try and learn what Christian life is like, and they have invested hundreds and hundreds of hours in her, leading to her wedding two weeks ago. “That's our program for singles,” he said.

Their church is 99% homeschoolers, and they are concerned the church may become just another slot of 30-35 year old homeschoolers, like a megachurch program. How can they be relevant, and minister to the real world? What do you do when a family shows up with a difficult child? A widow needs support? A single woman wants to prepare for marriage? You cross the bridges, a church that engages in hospitality, a church that is willing to suffer in relationships. You do it the way Jesus did – you don't start a program, you invest your life in others.

“I was after Reformation. I thought it was about good ideas, or getting the right people elected to office, or a jurisdictional thing, and it's all that -- but it's impossible to have a reformation unless you're willing to serve a Simon, a Heide, or a Nancy.”

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