I’m often amazed at how often God’s Word speaks directly into our situation! Though I’ve been a Christian most my life, and spent over 30 years as a pastor, sometimes verses in the Bible seem to jump right off the page in a way that truly is supernatural. When that happens all you can do is sit back and say, “Wow! Thanks God for speaking to me today!” That was my experience again this morning!!
Each year I try to read through the bible. My scheduled reading today began with Isaiah 7. That’s when it happened again…verse 9 virtually jumped off the page!
“If you don’t take your stand in faith, you won’t have a leg to stand on.” —Isaiah 7:9 The Message
Wow! That’s pretty blunt! No one accused Isaiah of beating around the bush. Throughout his ministry he seemed to have the ability to cut through fluff and go straight to the issue.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking with a number of folks about the need for those of us who are Christian leaders within the YMCA to become more visible and vocal about our faith within the scope of our work in and through the Y. Given the history and heritage of our organization, it would seem that there should be freedom to be unapologetic about our faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, too often we, as a group, are quiet…perhaps too quiet!
The YMCA does some wonderful things. Our focus on Youth Development, Social Responsibility and Healthy Living are commendable. Programs focused on teaching kids to swim, diabetes education, bridging the education gap, serving our “Silver Sneaker” population, and much more speak volumes about the integrity and passion of the Y leadership, both past and present. The fact that our doors are always open to all – every race, creed, nationality, gender, or economic background – is something for us to celebrate.
But perhaps lost in that sometimes are the foundational principles which George Williams and his friends first envisioned for the YMCA. No matter how you interpret our history, there is no denying the fact that one of the primary purposes of the YMCA was to speak the truth of scripture into the lives of those who choose to participate in the Y’s activities. Specially, the goal was to represent the life and message of Jesus Christ through the Y’s service to their community.
A lot has changed in the politically correct world in which we now live. As the culture has changed, the natural tendency is for organizations that serve that culture to change with it. Such changes are often a necessary reality if they are going to stay relevant and continue to have a meaningful presence in their society. But the danger is that it is often easy to walk away from the foundational principles upon which the organization was established.
In the old sermon illustration, the old shabby “life saving station” that focused on rescuing those that crashed upon the rocky shores of New England was eventually replace by newer and nicer “clubs” that became social hubs for the community. Unfortunately, despite the nicer amenities, no one currently involved in the club could really recall the last time anyone was actually rescued.
I believe those of us serving through the YMCA need to be a bit more vocal and visible within the larger culture of the Y. I don’t want to take anything away from what the Y is already doing across the country, but I also don’t want us to lose touch with those things that were the building blocks of the movement. While the YMCA is not a church, nor should it be, the Christian expression within the larger culture of the Y should always have a seat at the table. Everyone should be welcomed to walk into the door of a Y and participate in anything they’d like to do. But no one should be surprised to find that some of those things are a reflection of our Christian faith and heritage. After all, it’s in our name…so let’s be proud of it!
As I’ve seen so many times over the past 16 months while I’ve traveled around the country and visited in over 150 YMCAs, I think you can be a GREAT YMCA leader while demonstrating a vibrant Christian faith that is evident in everything you do. The expression of your personal faith is consistent with our heritage, constitution, and mission statement. I want to personally challenge Y leaders across the country to consider Isaiah 7:9 again with me, “If you don’t take your stand in faith, you won’t have a leg to stand on.”