All said, I'm more or less recovered from moving and had an outstanding time visiting with my old (and now current) pastor, the man who mentored me for over a decade. I had forgotten how stimulating it is just to sit and talk with him.
My church has grown by over 200 people since I left in 2003, and many of them are new converts. The church has an active Alpha program, but it's used primarily as a primer for those who have already (or recently) accepted Christ through other means. It was actually thrilling to hear about all the new baby Christians. It's really energized this church and created a newness again. It's fun to be around people who aren't churched and don't know better. All they know is they need to "do the stuff," the work of the Kingdom. They haven't learned how to make excuses yet. When I joined the church plant in 1989, there were 14 people. Now they're thinking it could hit 1,000 in five years, again, much of it from the success of its evangelistic agenda. It's exciting. I'm all about church growth when it comes through new converts. They're also thinking about new church plants, so it's a very exciting time to be returning.
I thought our conversation would devolve into more personal stuff, but we never got that far. We spent over an hour discussing the current state of Calvinism and how it deals with the problem of evil. We spent a great deal of time discussing the Open Theists, Gregory A. Boyd in particular, and their response to the same issue. Jack is a fairly conservative, traditional believer in relation to our denomination (the Vineyard), but I've always been impressed how he remains up-to-date and open to discussion on this stuff. He's always been about balance (and charity among believers).
Our discussion made me realize why I've come to hedge my bets on swallowing TULIP whole. The problem of evil -- and God's influence on it -- has always been one of my hot buttons. Without either of us being aware of it, I suppose Jack has encased me with his own theology. Realize, this is a guy who used to cut up in Hebrew with James White at GCU (a Baptist college in Phoenix). I guess this is a good demonstration for me that there's room for all kinds of thought in Christianity as long as the Gospel goes untainted. Maybe that's a statement that would make Dr. White or his buddy Phil Johnson uncomfortable, but I can appreciate them from afar. =)
It's weird how you can grow so close to somebody, but they're still just passing through, not a permanent fixture in your life. That's not the case with Jack. He's not just a preacher, he's my friend, my brother, and when you've served beside someone doing Kingdom work, there's a kinship that transcends all things. I am so thankful to have a friend like this. God is good.