Sunday, September 21, 2008
Pastor Joel Hunter and Northland Church
For those of you who have asked, NCD is the church I attend … Northland, A Church Distributed. I have been attending since 1997 and the church has grown significantly since then. Change is hard, especially when it comes to something as personal as faith. As with most areas of my life, I am not always the most committed person when the going gets tough, but I am working on that downfall. More specifically, for the past few years, my primary opinion of Northland is I love it. I love the people, the music, the teaching, the atmosphere, and the Spiritual feeding by Pastor Joel Hunter (which I will come back to in a moment).
But every now and then, for personal reasons, I find some fault with Northland, and consider attending elsewhere. (Most of this is due to personal defense issues, thus no fault of the church.) My reasons tend to be the conflict I have in growing up in an extremely conservative Baptist church versus the contemporary format of Northland. To put it simply, Northland is (among other things) entertaining. The Worship Team honestly sounds better than most groups on the radio and is accompanied by a full band – drums, guitars, sometimes saxophones, pianos, organs, fiddles, you name it. Every now and then, they will add another component, such as praise dancing, videos, skits, etc..
Let me get to my point. Last night, Pastor Hunter (who is widely known and sought after, including saying the prayer for Obama at the DNC and being in the media daily because of his world-wide influence) held a Town Meeting/Forum where he allowed the congregation to express their concerns and ask questions. To be honest, I was anxious myself, not knowing what to expect after some of the negative publicity he has received from the end of his prayer, which can be viewed here.
To say I was impressed is an understatement. By being open and vulnerable to whatever was asked, Pastor Hunter’s faith was undeniable. Instead of going into specifics, I will summarize his answers as such: There is no doubt in my mind that Pastor Hunter’s primary goal is to be like Jesus. He is a dedicated man of prayer, praying for every decision he makes, and seeking counsel from elders. His intent is to spread the Gospel wherever he can, to whomever he can, which brings me to my point.
I forget exactly how he said it, but there is a difference between standing on moral issues no matter what versus spreading the Gospel on an individual’s level. That stuck with me. We can be so caught up in trying to convince others to believe as we believe, that we miss the chance to let Jesus work through us.
When I accepted Jesus as Lord of my life in 8th grade, I only did it to avoid going to hell. I knew nothing about having a personal relationship with Jesus, the need for community, serving others, none of that stuff. I just wanted to secure my spot in heaven. Frankly, if you would have told me all that it would take to follow Christ, such as forgiving, loving, and denying myself to serve others, I may have had second thoughts (not knowing what I know now). After last night’s forum, I understand how Northland meets people where they are, just as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, and just as Jesus did and still does.
None of us are worthy to receive the grace God gives us… whether you are an Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, Muslim, Democrat or Republican, Jesus loves you so much that he died for you. We are all build in the image of God and I believe Pastor Hunter sees this above all other labels. I am honored – yet humbled- to be part of Pastor Hunter’s church... Northland, a Church Distributed.