Last year my best friend came to church. That may not seem like a big deal to you. Lots of people have friends and best friends who attend church. My best friend isn’t crazy about church. There’s a lot to do on Sunday and my best friend thinks that church is one of the lower priorities.
In the 30 years that we’ve known one another I think he’s attended church once or twice. During our teenage years I invited my best friend to church camp. I told him it was fun and not "really religious." Teenage boys are pretty stupid. That was the extent of my best friend’s church involvement.
My best friend and I living it up at church camp.
When I became a pastor my best friend congratulated me. I don’t think he was congratulating me about becoming a pastor. I think my best friend was relieved that I was doing something with my life. Still, my new job as a pastor sparked some new conversations.
Every now and again we’d get together, and my best friend would make a joke that I was going right to heaven or hell, depending on what we were doing. Sometimes he’d make a comment that I should use my public speaking skills and go into politics instead of church. When we got together with my other friends from Long Island there was always a joke about confession and Hail Marys. That one never got old.
Every now and again he asked me to say a prayer for him or his family or his job at the NYPD.
Then one day my best friend told me he was going to come to my church, our church, Forefront Church. I was skeptical. My best friend hasn’t been around anything remotely spiritual since those church camp visits in the 90’s and I was pretty sure that the endless chorus of “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” had scarred him forever. I brushed it off as an empty promise and the conversation moved on to baseball, Long Island (Strong Isle!), friends, wives, and kids. I forgot that my best friend even made the promise to check out Forefront.
Two weeks later my best friend and his wife walked into my church, our church, Forefront Church. He was greeted warmly. He had an extended conversation with a fellow NYPD officer who is a regular attender. Ben Grace led a ridiculous worship set that day. I forget what I spoke about, but I’m not sure it mattered. After the service our church community invited my best friend and his wife to lunch. Our church community made them feel at home. I saw my best friend shaking hands with each of you in our church community. No one knew he was my best friend.
My best friend caught up with me in the lobby. He grabbed me by the arm, leaned in, and said,
“That was freaking amazing.”
He gave me a hug and told me that we have an incredible church. His wife told me she’s never experienced anything like our community before. It completely surprised her. And then my best friend said, “If I ever come back to church it will be your church," our church, Forefront Church.
Do you want to know why I love Forefront? Do you want to know why I think giving to our “Together In This” campaign is so vital?
Because we are a community that creates space for people who may be out of practice when it comes to church attendance. We surround them and let them know that this is a safe place to question, love, and grow.
We are a community that meets people at the crossroads of life and tells them that they’re not alone on the journey.
We are a community that challenges the notion of church as an institution of uniformity, and instead, invites everyone who hungers and thirsts to sit at the table.
We are a community that tells my Long Island raised, NYPD sergeant, non-church-going, best friend that his life matters and that he is loved.
That’s why we have this church, our church, and our church community.
That’s why we give.
That’s why I #LoveForefront.