Museums, Movements, and Mr. Lilly

Recently our Middle School Pastor RJ McCauley sent me a link to a video called “Church Planter”. This video reminded me of a story that I tell about a man named Myron Lilly.

In my mid-twenties, my wife and I attended a Baptist church in a small town near where we still live today. This church was almost one hundred years old at that time and had dwindled down to an elderly congregation of around one hundred and fifty or so. The denomination had installed a young Pastor and many of the long time parishioners didn’t really like him. Oddly though, this church also became a refuge for a small band of Christian musicians and since I mixed for some of these bands, my wife and I became a part as well. One summer, we decided to start a Sunday night service called “Nite Life” for our generation. It would be for people who didn’t like church and for those of us who wanted to do modern music in church. We even advertised on local rock stations. The first night was packed with a younger crowd, many of whom were smoking on the front steps before they came in. We had hit our target and we were all pretty excited. Down on the front row walked Myron Lilly. Mr. Lilly, now in his eighties, was born on Saturday and in church on Sunday. He had been raised in that church and his mother’s maiden name was even on one of the stained glass windows. I didn’t really know him at the time, but, non-the-less, there he was.

The service was a great success and many became Christians that night. After the service the Pastor went back to his office. There was a knock on the door, and Mr. Lilly came in. “Pastor? Can I talk to you for a minute?” The pastor agreed and invited Mr. Lilly in. (Later he would tell me that he thought to himself “Okay, here it comes”). Mr. Lilly continued; “Pastor, that was the worst music I have ever heard. But if you have to bang on trash cans to get that many young people into this church, I will go down and buy the trash cans!”

Mr. Lilly came to that service every week. He prayed and ministered to those kids. When he died, many of those who attended that service were moved to tears.

Mr. Lilly got it. To this day, he is one of the few people I have had the privilege of being around about whom I can say “There goes Jesus”. He was a man. A man of faith. A man of God. He understood it was not about him. He was not just a “long time Christian” but a “Mature Christian”. He inspired me then as he does today to be a man who mentors and raises up the next generation of men to lead the church.

He was not interested in the church being a country club or a museum for reminiscing about the "Good Ol' Days". He wanted the church to be a movement and that is how he lived.

What kind of church do you want to be a part of? You may not think you can affect your church from the back of the room. You are wrong to think that. You can be a part of a movement.