Jeff Iorg Blog
Say It this Christmas
Dec 19 2014
As many of you know, my mother passed away earlier this month. She was an energetic, vibrant person and we had a good relationship. When she died, I was already in Texas on a speaking engagement which meant I had a three hour drive by myself to her home. During that drive, I reflected on many facets of our relationship.
One of the things I thought about was this question, “What would I say to my mother if she were still alive?” And, after thinking about it on that trip and in the weeks since, I have not been able to come up with anything. If it needed to be said, we had already said it.
That’s a good feeling! I had often told my mother I loved her, had told her how much her sacrifices on my behalf meant to me, had thanked her for always supporting me, and enjoyed just “shooting the breeze” about her life and mine. My mother had some quaint expressions, her special way of communicating her homespun philosophies about life. Those sayings, and the “rain” report (always a priority in West Texas), were a part of almost every conversation – along with whatever family gossip was in the air. We enjoyed a free-wheeling relationship, frank and funny at the same time.
What about you and the people closest to you? Is there anything you need to say to them, now, while you can? How about “I love you” or “I forgive you” or “Thank you for what you have done for me” or “I admire you” or something similar? If you need to say something like this to a special person, do it now! Don’t wait. My mother’s sudden death reminds us life is short and the end can come at any time.
During this Christmas season, when you are with the important people in your life, let them know how you feel. Say it. Write it. Text it if you can’t do it any other way. But if you have something you want to say, or need to say – say it now!
“Community” is a buzzword among many young adult Christians today. They long for it, insist it’s an elusive reality, and talk about how to achieve it. Community is important. But, unfortunately, the strategies and methods people today think produce community just don’t work. You can’t achieve community by sitting around your living room with a small group, drinking coffee, and talking about “doing life together.” That’s recipe for boredom, not community.
My mother’s recent death resulted in a powerful demonstration of community. More than 300 people came to her memorial service, including the mayor of a neighboring community and four commissioners from the county where she lived. Most of the crowd was her trail/parade/rodeo riding friends. For about 25 years, my mother, her matched team of horses, and her various wagons and buggies have been a staple in the cowboy culture in her area.
My mother and her friends have true community because they do something important together. They preserve a historic way of life and, along the way, raise money for and devote time to various children’s charities. When people do something important together, that involves personal investment (even sacrifice), community happens. That’s why men who fought in a war 40 years ago still have reunions, and picking up their annual conversations as if they had never been apart. That’s why women gather for sorority reunions with women from college days 30 years ago, and share the same bonds they had during those life-shaping experiences.
“Community” results from doing something together, from going through a shared experience doing something significant. Christian community results when Christians work together to accomplish God’s mission. As we pray intensely, work sacrificially, and share the pain and joy of hard-earned progress – community happens. Christian community results from living on mission together, not just talking about it.
So, this Christmas, rather than sit around discussing esoteric theological questions or musing about ministry conundrums with your small group – go serve the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and share the gospel. Do it with a group and watch community develop out of mission, not as a precursor to it.
On Saturday, December 6, my mother passed away. She died, as they say in West Texas, “with her boots on.” She was 77 and as active as most 40 year olds. She was an avid participate in trail rides, parades, and rodeos with her team of horses and various wagons. She had won more than 100 “best in show” awards over the past 25 years. She had participated in 4 Christmas parades this past week! She died in her sleep from natural causes.
My mother loved the Lord (especially during Cowboy Church), her family, her friends, and her horses – not always in that order! She was a courageous, vivacious, hard-working woman who thought helping others was the natural order of life. Thanks to all of you have offered prayers, emails, and other messages of support. We are sad, but rejoicing, in God’s grace to sustain us.
A prosperity preacher’s house went up for sale recently, sparking some controversy and reminding me again of the different perspectives people have on ministerial use of money and possessions. “Perspectives” is the key word. What seems appropriate to one person looks like extravagance to another. It’s hard to comment on these issues without sounding judgmental or self-serving.
My “old school” mentors taught me frugality was an essential quality for ministry leaders. We were supposed to model wise spending – controlling spending (personally and professionally) on lesser items so maximum resources could be spent on priorities germane to our mission. That still seems like a good goal to me.
Being frugal means making sober, self-limiting choices related to money and possessions. Being frugal is not the same as being cheap or selfish. Frugality is a positive quality, based on wise choices about priorities and careful allocation of resources. For example, a frugal person might skimp in some areas so they can spend extravagantly in others – like a husband packing a sack lunch every day to save money so he can take his wife out for a lavish dinner. Frugality is about spending on priorities, not just about avoiding spending money.
We are currently working out what “frugality” means at Golden Gate. We are spending millions on two new campuses – one in Southern California and a second in Northern California. We are trying to limit our spending to what we really need to accomplish our mission, nothing more. We are trying to avoid building to satisfy ego or compete with other schools. We are determined to save and invest some of our sale proceeds to assure our future financial stability.
Some have suggested we build “the best” because God wants his children to have “the best – whatever it costs.” That seems like a misguided, misinterpretation of how God wants his resources used. From my perspective, God wants his people to have what they need – and then send most of their resources to getting the gospel to people who have not yet heard about Jesus.
Yes, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. But, when we sell some of them, why do we get to spend the money on ourselves? Let’s meet our needs – our real needs – and then send the rest of the resources to the greater work of getting the gospel to as many people as possible.