Thinking that my wife, Carol, could help me with my quandary, I asked her when she had seen me cry. She hesitated and explained that she had not seen me cry much.
So I said, “Surely I cried when our son and daughter were born.”
She said, “No.”
So I asked, “Haven’t I been moved to tears at a few funerals?”
She said, “No, Bob. You’re just like your father—even-tempered, never uproariously happy, and hardly ever near tears. But I, on the other hand, can cry at a commercial.”
The subject was on my mind because I had just read these words from Leonard Sweet.* “Does your church love its zip code enough to cry over it? Jesus cried over a person (Lazarus, John 11:1-44) and a place (Jerusalem, Luke 19:41). Does your church know its zip code enough to cry over it? How can you help your people to become topophiliacs (lovers of a place)?”
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10, NIV).
I don’t recall ever crying over Montrose, Denver, Hutchinson, or Tampa—the four cities where I pastored churches. But Jesus was so moved by the hurt and waywardness of the people of Jerusalem, he couldn’t contain his grief, and wept. If I ever have the chance to pastor again, my plan would be to discover the boundaries of my zip code and become a student of the need within. Where is the hurt greatest in that area? Who are the people who are most neglected, broken, hungry, and addicted? How can our church minister in that context? How can I lead an effort that would enable others to seek out and care for those in their zip code?
Carol reminded me of something else during our conversation. “Bob, about the only time I see you tearful is when you’re preaching.” And that is true. On occasion, tears will come while I’m preaching. Those tears are answered prayer because, about thirty years ago, I distinctly remember asking God to give me tears when I preach. I was tired of preaching truth without passion.
Could it be time for us to go back to Jesus with another prayer? “Jesus, we are exhausted with trying to reach our cities with frenetic activity, fancy branding, and the latest websites. Please give us eyes to see the need in our zip codes and tears to water our efforts.” I believe that’s another prayer he will be quick to answer!
Pleased with the prospects,
Bob Broadbooks USA/Canada Regional Director
*Leonard Sweet’s comments about loving your zip code can be found on Jeff K. Clarke’s blog:http://www.jeffkclarke.com/a-conversation-with-leonard-sweet-on-the-future-of-the-church/#more-8684