This morning we welcome to the pulpit my former boss (I changed “old” to “former” for clarity and not to judge). Bracy Ball was my mentor and friend for the nine years Christie and I were on staff at his church in Rancho Mirage. When Christie and I arrived in the desert, we had just moved her parents to New York (and a stint with African Inland Mission). We had been married a year-and-a-half, and were leaving behind some great friends at Brethren High School, where we had met as teachers. We had no children and bought a new house (thank you, Grandma Helen).
Bracy had founded Family Life Church in the Rancho Las Palmas hotel ballroom over five years (he can correct me) before we came. They had hired us in the spring on 1985 (I was to be the first youth pastor) and we finished out the school year and then moved Christie’s folks to New York. So we started at Family Life (living in a hotel since the house wasn’t yet ready) in August. August in the desert. Shocker. And, since there had never been a youth pastor, by the time we arrived, there weren’t any youth around. Parents got tired of waiting. They had scattered. I was a youth pastor to two. My first night, no one showed. What was God doing?
Well, things did get going and we were at Family Life for the next nine years. Nine amazing years, to be honest. We grew. The church grew. The youth ministry grew too. It was a community full of young families, so our ministry to children exploded (and was on my plate as well). God blessed us with three children and we fit in quite nicely with all these young families living in the area. We loved it. Well, summers were rough with three little kids, let’s be honest. Rough on Christie (I escaped to camp after camp).
One of the hardest days of my life was surviving the morning vote of approval here at Peninsula and then driving back out to the desert that afternoon to tell Bracy your decision. And mine. We loved the desert. We loved the church. But, for us, it was time for change.
As I reflect on life, I have concluded that I learned to love the Word during my days at Dallas Seminary. Those were pivotal days where I learned the Scriptures could be trusted and they became honey to life. But it was during my days at Family Life that I learned to do the Word. It is not enough to love it and to read it and memorize it. It really isn’t. At Family Life and under Bracy’s teaching and leadership, I learned that I must with equal zeal, do the Word. I don’t really love it if I do not do it.
So, this morning, for Christie and I renew deep friendships with Bracy and his wife, Raylene, and I hope for you to catch his passion to do the Word. James says it, but do we believe it? Listen. And do.