Q: How do you see Resurrection Downtown impacting the community?
Adam: My hope is that with every campus we are impacting a part of our culture and community. That happens with you inviting people to church and their own lives being changed by Christ. Every time somebody’s life is changed in the name of Christ it is like a pebble dropped in a pond and the ripple effect is incalculable. Every single relationship that you have and business decision that you make is affected by the fact that you are going to follow Jesus Christ.
The first way that downtown is making a difference is by the people whose lives are changed when they come here. That happens not from any postcard or mailer that is sent out. They break the soil a little bit. It is you saying to a friend, “Hey you should go to this church downtown. We have a cool campus pastor and great music. It’s really affecting my life. You should come with me this weekend.” The first time you ask them they will say no, the second time they will say no, and eventually they say they will go just so you will shut up about it.
It takes an average person who isn’t religious six times to be asked before they will go. You do that in a way that’s not like some people who say, “If you were to die tonight do you know without a shadow of doubt that you will go to heaven.” You just say you really care about them and you would like for them to check it out.
The second is the salt of life that you bring to the community. Jesus says that there is a city on the hill that cannot be hidden, like a light that is shone before others that they might see your good works and give glory to God in heaven. Part of that is what you are constantly doing in mission and service. You do that not just to bring other people to Christ. You do that because there are hurting people out there and you are the presence of Christ. Jesus was constantly healing the sick and setting free the captives. In the midst of doing that people look at you and say, “Those people are the real deal.”
Several nights ago I was at a Leawood Planning Commission to get approval for our next building. I was there 12 years ago for our current building and there were hundreds of people who showed up protesting saying things like children would die because of the cars and Resurrection members would run over them and all these scare tactics. The planning commission was pretty tough on us.
This time, the planning commission said, “We just want you to know that your church has made such a difference in our community. We are so proud that you are a part of the Leawood community. We are excited about your building and your vision.” Only two people came who I thought might protest, and one of them stood up and said he wished that we would clean up some dead trees on his property, but he really loves Resurrection, he doesn’t go here, but he loved it. It was awesome to see that the community around us, whether they go to church or not, has said that this is a valuable part of the community and we are making a difference here. You are already doing that downtown but I can see that growing exponentially in the years to come. So it’s growing by people’s lives being changed and the impact you are having in the community.
Q: How do you walk a fine line of trying to lead by example but also without looking conceited when you tell us about some of the good works you do?
Adam: From time to time I will tell you about something I am doing in my life as a way to try and set an example for you. At the same time, Jesus says don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing and don’t announce what the good works that you are doing. He said let your light shine before others so they see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven so it’s a mixed bag there.
What I want to say to you is if I do something that I think I got right, I am hardly ever going to tell you that. I might tell you about a friend who got it right, and you won’t know that if it was me or somebody else. And most of the time it probably actually is somebody else. I try to balance that out by telling enough stories about something stupid I did that helps a little bit.
If I ever tell you something so I think you will think highly of me, then I blew it. If at times you see me say something that you think is conceited you might drop me a note and say, “Hey I heard you say this six times and it is probably a little too much.” While it will sting I appreciate getting those types of messages. By the way my wife usually does that for me most of the time. She is pretty good at that. Anyway, that’s a way to set an example without being boastful or arrogant.
Q: When you retire can we keep Scott downtown?
Adam: Well maybe, but we will have to see what God has in store 20 years from now when I retire. We will see what God has in store for Scott and downtown then too. I like that there is a little smiley face at the end of this question. Part of what I want you to know is I so value Scott. His ministry and leadership is a huge part of what is happening down here. At the same time, my goal is to work myself out of a job at Leawood. I want the church to be so strong that when I die and if I have done my job well and that we have helped everyone in the congregation own this mission and vision.
We have helped you develop significant relationships so that even when we are not here, you are here because all of your Christian friends are here. That you have enough lay leaders and staff members to carry that DNA vision forward that this will be an awesome place to be. Whether I am here or Scott is here. Ultimately we are going to do our best that if something happened to me or Scott, that we have somebody that we are mentoring that can step into that spot.
What I told the Leawood campus the other day is there are thousands of Methodist pastors who would love to be the pastor at Church of the Resurrection. If you think I am the best that there is then you are sorely mistaken. When somebody else shows up after I am dead, then you are going find yourself saying, “Wow that’s what a real pastor sounds like.”
Q: I read in a report that 1/5 of the public and 1/3 of young adults under 30 are religiously unaffiliated. 2/3 of Americans are saying that religion is losing its significance in American lives. Is this a problem or an opportunity?
Adam: I love the question. This is a huge opportunity. The opportunity is that people didn’t stop having spiritual needs in the last 20 years. They were just turned off from what they were seeing in the church. Not all churches, but sometimes the most vocal churches were the ones that were the most off putting in their message.
What the non religious saw were Christians who were narcissistic and not looking at the world around them and how could we bring the presence of Christ in the world and bring healing, hope, and justice. I think it is a huge opportunity. I think you are all a huge example. How many of you were not involved in a church before you started coming here? About half of you? Maybe more? What that tells me is that nominally religious people are drawn to Christ when they see such an authentic representation of him. You have heard this before. A lot of people love Jesus they just don’t love the church. If we can be a church that looks like Jesus then I think we will draw more people which is what downtown is doing.
Q: Where do you see the United Methodist Church going?
Adam: The United Methodist Church has 34,000 churches in the United States and more than any other denomination. In the 1800’s we would have people travel by horseback and go to every village. We had a church going in every county of the United States.
Somewhere along the 1950’s and 1960’s we lost our way a little bit and there were multiple factors. In the 1960’s mainline protestants adopted birth control before the Catholics and conservatives did so we stopped having as many babies as they did.
The real thing that happened was when we forgot what passionate and vital Christianity looked like. We lost a lot of people my age when they were old enough to opt out or go to church somewhere else. Many of the conservatives were offering a response to the 1960’s revolution with something that was passionate, biblical, and they were willing to tell you what they believed in. We mainline protestants weren’t very sure what we believed in anymore. We are still suffering from that.
Many of our churches are vital and alive today. People aren’t saying they don’t like the Methodist church anymore, that was happening in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Today what is happening is our people are dying. Most of the people like our church now it is just that the average age is 60. We have far more people who are in their 80’s than are in their 20’s in our church. The tragic thing is when the average age is 60, you can’t grow the church the fun way which is more babies. Unless you are Abraham and Sarah you are going to have to find out how to reach a new generation. When everybody at the church is in their 70’s and 80’s it is really tough to be a church for somebody in their 20’s really wants to go. Church of the Resurrection’s passion is about revitalizing the United Methodist Church. I think we as a denomination are going to decline, we have a little under eight million members in the United States today and I think we will get to four or five million members. But I think if we are doing things that Resurrection and other churches are doing to revitalize the church, then I am praying in 20 years when I am retiring that we will have bottomed out and are growing again. You are an important part of that.
Part of the reason we are always saying to listen to God to see if there is a call for you to be a pastor, is I want to know who are going to be the pastors for today’s kindergarteners. I will give you a secret, most people don’t hear an audible call saying, “I want you to be a pastor.” It happens when somebody comes by and says, “I think you have the gifts for this, would you consider being a pastor.” Pretty soon you dream about and can’t stop thinking about it. So I am hoping that some of you are thinking about going to seminary and starting a church somewhere and leading people to Christ.