Over Labor Day week-end, I joined a group of writer friends, both men and women, all veterans who have survived the ups and downs and ins and outs of the publishing industry over the last twenty to thirty years. You’d know their names. Some have sold millions of books all over the world. Several had written more than one hundred books, one – over two hundred. I am a fan and sat in awe that I was among such great writers. We come from different denominations and backgrounds; Presbyterian, Baptist, Mennonite, non-denominational and fundamentalist, Assembly of God and Pentacostal. Several are or had been pastors. Differences didn’t matter, and were even a source of teasing. We were all solidly united in Christ.
Our host had poured out his frustrations with publishers over the years by creating a paradise with towering trees, fountains and pathways that lead to leafy alcoves and a sand “pit” that felt more like a beach. Birds sang and squirrels raced on branches above while we all sat in a circle and talked. A taste of Eden before the fall of mankind. Where two or more are gathered, Christ is among us, and Jesus’ Presence was felt by all.
The conversations were rich and deep as we talked about the writing life, the changing church in America, how the Lord is working in our lives and what ideas are mulling around in our heads. We even shared personal stories and our most embarrassing moments. Whenever there was a pause (about ten seconds of silence), someone called out “Lull!” and a slip of paper would be snatched from a pile, a new question presented. We laughed until our sides ached. We cried. We shared personal struggles. We spoke about deep theological ideas. Some have such quick minds, they can drop one-line zingers, puns and word plays to get us laughing again. The writing life is not easy, and the markets are narrowing. Some have been deeply wounded by the battle to carry on. But we all agreed: Unless God changes the call on our lives, we will persevere – and encourage others to do likewise.
Each night I returned to the hotel, I raised my hands to the Lord in thanksgiving. One day in the house of the Lord is better than a thousand elsewhere, and the gathering of believers to praise and worship Him can take place anywhere, anytime, inside a cathedral or in a back yard.
Many churches in America are in trouble, but the church is alive and well.