“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Several months ago I had the privilege of interviewing Gloria Gaither via telephone. The occasion was the debut of The Gaither Homecoming Bible, a special edition of the New King James Version, replete with personal testimonies and comments by various members of the Gaither Band. As she was telling me—grandmother to grandmother—what made this particular edition special, she told me about the young families who are part of their life on the road, of her heart-to-heart conversations with members of a much younger generation. There is no question that the challenges, the questions, the demands—everything that makes up the daily “normal” is very different from the way it was 30 or 40 years ago when Bill and Gloria Gaither were parents of small children. Gloria said that she and her contemporaries (and they are of my generation) all feel a great sense of urgency and a certain anxiety about their grandchildren. How hard is it to plant a seed of real Christian faith in the heart of a child in a culture that is drifting further and further from a place where a Christian can also be accepted as a person of intellect? Why are the voices of the world telling us we have to choose between being respected as “smart and forward-looking” or being categorized (rolling eyes) as “Christian?”
I loved Gloria’s advice to her grandson who asked, “How do I know what God’s will for my life is?” Her reply echoed in my memory again and again as I read the bios of the Christian Leader finalists. She answered that in making choices, you must do the next right thing in front of you, and then the next right thing, and that bit by bit, as you do small thing by small thing, you build a resume—and what is more important, you build a life that is God-honoring. I would add to God-honoring a life that influences those around you. And that, readers, is how we change this present culture.
Despite our era of social media where the word “relationship” has been so distorted that people who have never met face to face can consider themselves a couple, (Facebook terms it In a Relationship) there is no imitation that even comes close to the real thing. One of my favorite parts of these finalists’ essays was their answer to the question about their heroes in the faith. Very few named the Billy Grahams and Mother Teresas of the world. They named their youth leaders, their schoolteachers, their grandparents, their Sunday school teachers, and their moms and dads—and some named their siblings. Their answers reminded me of something else I have been told for much of my life: The only lasting legacy we leave behind is what we have invested in the lives of others.
This is a special issue for lots of reasons, and one of them is that we have an array of stories showcasing a few creative entrepreneurs—leaders, for sure, who are venturing “outside the box” and unselfishly serving God with a real heart for those outside the walls of the traditional church experience—and consciously asking the question, “What can I do with who I am and the gifts I have been given that would inspire and help those around me?” Living the life that honors God, inspires others, and makes a difference in this world is about much more than those few hours on a Sunday morning. The question that matters is always, “What is God’s will for my life?”
Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character. ~William Arthur Ward