Lessons Learned From My Dad

This is a guest post by Joe Schlie. Joe and his family serve with Campus Crusade in Paris, France and are committed to communicating the love of Christ among the university students of that city. It is not an easy task. I have known Joe for several years and greatly admire his leadership. He recently shared some touching and worthwhile thoughts from his dad. Read and be blessed.

Lessons Learned From My Dad On the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, it’s does us well to remember other giants who serve as models today. Let us not just remember them, but let us seek to live and serve like they did so that the Good News of the love of Christ might continue to shine in even the darkest of places.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants. Some giants are less known, but they are giants. Pastor David Schlie, my dad, is one of them. He started pastoring in the 1960’s, in some of the most challenging situations of that era. The Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in Saint Louis, Missouri has been described as hell on earth -(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7RwwkNzF68)

He would wear his pastor collar in the buildings so that people would know why he was there. He would preach, teach, pray and serve so that the love of Christ would be proclaimed in this most difficult place.

He left Saint Louis to pursue a call to pastoring Trinity Lutheran Church in Albany, Georgia around 1968. The 1960’s in Albany was a hotbed of racial tension and in the forefront of the civil rights movement in the deep south. It was in this kind of climate that he came to learn and serve in the city. It was in this kind of climate that he came to serve Him who came to bring justice, peace and reconciliation. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBrZ4utBse8)

He left Albany to move north with his family, and came back to his “roots” in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He originally came back to teach in a Lutheran high school, but chose to settle his family on the opposite side of the city. We settled in the southeast side of Fort Wayne, in a changing community where many of it’s white residents were moving out.

He became the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, and continued to serve and learn in this poor community for almost 20 years. The lessons learned are innumerable: How to serve in a changing neighborhood? How to serve in a church that is shrinking? How to serve the whole city with the whole gospel?

And yet, the greatest lesson I’ve learned from him is to follow Jesus. Follow me, Jesus said. I trust that as ministry and mission moves forward, we will continue to be people who will wrestle with and judge ourselves by this simple mandate: Follow Jesus!

Here’s what my dad wrote to me several years before his passing. When we first arrived in France, I asked him what he would do if he were in my place. Here are his words:

I don’t have any secrets or special wisdom to share with you that has not already been made known to us by Jesus. I don’t believe in orchestrated programs or specific steps which lead to success. That is not to say that God can’t use them if they share Jesus with someone. I am not one who is good at building organizations or buildings or programs. I will share with you some of what I believe comes from Jesus. First, a little experience in my life.

When I was first ordained and received the call to serve the Church in Pruit-Igoe where we had no building and no organization, I had given no thought as to what I would be doing. No plan, no dream, system, nothing but a call to be a missionary to the people of that community. On the Monday after my ordination I drove to the projects and parked by the Community Center. Then it really hit me. What was I going to do? I was at first frightened. I sat and I prayed and I thought, “God, what am I supposed to do?”

After spending about 15 minutes in the car, a black man walked up to one of the buildings and sat down. In a few minutes I just got out of the car and went over and sat next to him. We talked for maybe a half an hour. There was some religious talk, but I’m sure there wasn’t much. But it was a warm conversation and it got me stirring. I went back to the car for a few moments, and then waled over to an apartment in which one of the people who came to our worship services lived. We talked and shared and prayed, and I left-going over to another home and doing the same thing. After doing this , I went home and prayed and thought.

To make a long story short, I got to know people. I learned how to pray with them, and I learned to know their joys and sorrows and needs. I learned the needs of their neighbors and I visited with them. One thing led to another.

Now, about you and France. I don’t know one thing, except they are God’s children, and Jesus died for them, and you want them to be saved, even the college students.

So, here we go. Try to meet people wherever they are. For example, at a sports activity, at a library, on a park bench, at a store. Then listen carefully and try to pick up any felt needs, any problems or any status problems. Jesus addressed the needs of people and showed he cared.

Don’t try to blow people over with your knowledge of religion. Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.” I Corinthians. 8.1 Build relationships. Try to identify with people, that’s what Jesus did when he was baptized, when He ministered to them, when He died with them. Christians are often: too intellectual, too sophisticated, too mechanical. Jesus told stories, was down to earth, was loose and improvising.

Pray for the Spirit; He led Jesus to:

Preach to the poor Good News

Proclaim freedom for the captives

Bring sight to the blind

Bring release to the oppressed

Reveal God’s favor to the down-trodden

Bind the broken-hearted

Comfort the mourners

Jesus turned life right side up

See Luke 4. 18,19 ; Isaiah 61.1-3 ; Luke 1.48-53.

Jesus was a master of identification: Matthew 3.15-17 ; Luke 5.8-11 ; Luke 5.12-16 ; Luke 5.17-26 ; Luke 5.27-31 ; Luke 5.36-39 ; Luke 15.1,2 ; Luke 23.39-43. Don’t judge – who had the faith? Luke 7.1-10 ; Luke 7.36-50 ; John 3.16-21.

My whole point is this: Lead by example and follow the leader supreme, Jesus. To follow Him is to do what He did.

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