My family and I arrived in Orlando in 2015, eager to meet new people, figure out a new city and begin a new season of ministry. It would be dishonest of me to say that all the tears shed in our house during our transition have been tears of joy. The past two years have contained a wide range of emotions, from anxiety over health challenges to the joy of watching our son’s baptism.
Last week our hearts were broken when we heard an abortion clinic in town was offering 50 percent off on late-term abortions. Once again it was a reminder the world isn’t the way it is supposed to be.
A time to weep?
I am encouraged that we have a God who is actively working in the midst of the world’s darkness. I find hope in that our God not only knows our predicament but meets us in our weakness. Two times in the Gospels and once in the Epistles we see Jesus cry. In John 11, we first read about the death of Lazarus, Jesus’ close friend. Jesus wept as he met with Lazarus’ siblings Mary and Martha. Interestingly, Jesus did not weep over the death itself. He knew Lazarus would soon be raised and ultimately spend eternity with him in heaven. Jesus wept as he was confronted with the wailing and sobbing of his friends and other mourners.
In Luke 19 we read of Jesus weeping as he approached Jerusalem. The word used in Luke 19 is the same word we find in the John 11 passage. Thus, we know that Jesus cried aloud in anguish over the city’s future. That dark future was less than 40 years distant; in AD 70 more than a million Jerusalem residents died in one of the most gruesome sieges in recorded history.
Jesus wept differently in these two instances because the eternal outcomes were different. Martha, Mary and Lazarus had eternal life because they believed in Jesus, but most in Jerusalem did not believe and therefore did not have life. That reality is the same today: “Jesus said to her [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’” (John 11:25).
This is why people sacrifice financially, give their best leaders and go to forgotten places. People need Jesus, and communities all around us are desperate to have a life-giving church. It’s why we plant churches. Who is going to reach them if we don’t?
If I am honest, I don’t weep enough over my city, my community or my neighborhood. My prayer is that we all will feel what Jesus felt. We will mourn with those who mourn, and we too will anguish over the lostness of those close to us. But we must also go. Let our battle cry be, “No matter what!”
What we accept slowly creeps into the coming generations. What we preach and how we lead does also. Our actions have an even greater impact. But what we war against with our battle cry says more about us than does all the rest. What the coming generations will take up war against will be a testament to us or a judgment against us.
Lee Stephenson, Former Vice President of Church Planting
Lee Stephenson served as Converge's vice president of Church Planting from 2015-2022. He earned both a bachelor and master’s degree in ministry from Bethel College (Mishawaka, IN). Lee also started and is lead pastor of Harvest Community Church, Orlando, Florida. He has also served on the Vision Arizona church planting LEAD team and is a go-to coach for church leadership and planting.