George Bernard Shaw once quipped, "One out of one people die, that's a startling statistic!" Sobering, to the point, and real. I remember hearing a radio spot while driving that was advertising for a funeral home. A deep, trusting voice said, "If you should ever die..." I remember swerving as I laughed and said, "If?!" There's no "if" we all die sometime. It is appointed for every man to die.
This Organic Church movement is so young, yet already we have lost several pioneering leaders. It seems like only a couple years ago that we were just a handful of friends sitting around a fire chatting about what could be, and now some of the faces are noticeably absent.
The first Greenhouse training Paul Kaak and I ever did together was in 2000 in Oxnard, CA. We had about 25 of our own leaders there, two of those leaders have gone home already: Brian Ollman and Mark Palmer. I miss them.
Brian was a spark of creativity in our movement that always stretched us to think outside of the box. He was always coming up with a new creative idea. He was a magnet for young creative people that were looking for a place to unpack their art. We are coming on the one year anniversary of his home going.
Palmer (he preferred to be called by his last name) had a real heart for reaching young people that were not connecting with the conventional church. For that reason he called his church the Landing Place, it was a place where people could come and connect with God, one another and a mission.
Yoshito Ishihara was one of the cutting edge leaders of organic expressions of church in Japan and he recently went home to be with our Lord after battling cancer. Josie seemed to laugh so easily and so infectiously. The church he led is unusual in Japan, it is full of freedom, joy and is very expressive of that joy. It is also larger and younger than most. This is a legacy of Josie. He was a father to many. I miss him too.
We actually teach that death is a part of life, so we shouldn't be shocked when it happens, but some how we still are.
There are others that have passed on (3 people from my own church in the last ten years). There will be even more. I remember C.S.Lewis speaking about the casualties of WWII and remarked that there were not more deaths in that generation than any other...because the death rate for every generation is the same--100%. Nevertheless, death is always too soon for those you love.
We do not mourn as those who have no hope. We have a very real hope and confidence in a great reunion. We already miss our friends, but the seeds they planted are already bearing fruit. We are grateful for their lives, and I for one, hope to live better for having known each of them.
I think that each one of these friends would challenge us to live our lives each day as if it were your last. Live well every day friend. I just completed a book (to be released March of 2011) that follows the life of a leader who finishes well. Finishing well is not something we do at the end of our life, it is what we do every day of our life. Live so that you will finish well, or die trying.
I often ask myself what would be left behind if I died today. Being prepared for death seems rather morbid, but it is actually a very wise thing to do (Ecc. 7:1-2). Are you living your life so that the end is better than the beginning? Will others prosper because of the investment of your life? What will remain after you go? Are you ready to meet God? What will it take to be prepared so that when you go others carry on the work? I'm not talking about life insurance, a funeral plot and a will, I'm talking about the seed of your own spiritual life bearing lasting fruit for eternity.
I have seen fruit from these men that will bear more fruit. I have loved each one and look forward to seeing them again. None of them were perfect, but Jesus' love for them was perfect, and it still is. That love of Jesus was the best part of their lives and it is that love that will bear fruit in all our lives.