Post Featured Image

A University, a Muslim, and a Pastor

This week we asked the question: What is God's will for my life? 
If you missed the sermon, you can watch it back here.

God's will isn't necessarily about a specific location or a specific job, but it's always about who you are. As Jesus followers, I've got to ask: Are you really following Jesus, giving the same grace He gives you, giving the same love He gives you? I wrapped up the worship experiences this past weekend sharing a recent letter I wrote to the president of a local university. The university hired a new chaplain. What's the big deal? The chaplain... she's a devout muslim. I was unaware of the hire, and it was brought to my attention by a faculty member who said she spent the first chunk of orientation learning how to answer and defer the media attention this was generating across the country, especially regionally. In fact, I found out that there were a plethora of emails, letters and phone calls to the university in outrage at this hiring decision. Some letters were even threatening in nature. So I immediately wrote my own letter to the university president:

Ms. President Fitzsimmons,

I heard about the recent chaplain hire at SU, as well as the poor feedback you have been receiving from our evangelical brothers and sisters. Please know that the faith diversity represented at the University is not only important, but refreshingly supported by myself and my church. In the midst of all of the negativity you have been receiving, I wanted to be an intentional voice of support and affirmation for you, the new chaplain, and the University. Thank you for your openness to the ideologies of the vast array of students and local supporters of SU. Praying for you, your staff, and students this year.

I received a prompt response:


God bless you for this e-mail that brings light and love for all! I can't tell you how much I appreciate you reaching out.

Since then, we've had a handful of the university's students begin to attend our worship experiences, and one student in particular is leading one of our parties across the street from the university campus. I've personally received 7 phone calls trying to place university students in our church to find meaningful faith community and belonging. I've also had the privilege to have lunch with the university's director of spiritual life - literally all because I wrote that letter. What you need to know is that when you follow Jesus, when you truly follow Jesus in the truth of his grace and love, it will always open doors that were otherwise shut. When you finally decide that you're willing to lay down your preferences for the people Jesus laid down his life for, then you've finally decided to follow Jesus - not just your religion.

So what did I do after reading this letter in church? I uninvited the 650 people who call Afresh home. I gave them an out. "This is your out. If you're uncomfortable with this, if you can't support this, there's no hurt feelings, you don't have to feel guilty about not coming back. But if you are wanting to follow Jesus with me, or at least give it a whirl, regardless of what you believe or don't believe, then jump on the train because it's moving full steam ahead." And I looked into the camera and invited all of the pastors and community leaders who wrote hateful letters to the university to retract them and fall in line to follow Jesus - not just in word, but in action and empathy. All I'm asking is for us to extend the same grace God gave us when we didn't yet believe to everyone else. 

I'll leave you with an amazing quote this week that sums up exactly how I feel.

"The only clear line I draw these days is this: when my religion tries to come between me and my neighbor, I will choose my neighbor... Jesus never commanded me to love my religion." -Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor

Give me the courage to extend the same grace You extend to me and the humility to lay down my preferences for those You laid down Your life for.