In the ministry circles I grew up in, my early years in leadership were marked by heated debates dubbed “the worship wars”: hymns vs. praise songs; traditional vs. contemporary; etc. The conversations at ministry conferences quickly transitioned to the importance of great leadership practices and how pastors needed to learn from the wisdom of business leaders and business school scholars…which then gave way to debates of philosophy and culture and generational studies. Words like”GenX”, ”post-modern” and ”ancient-future”were circling and the lights were dimmed and the candles were lit and guitars were strummed. This was “church” they were saying.
It seemed that the chorus of “experts and practitioners” grew, and while some declared that we needed to be more ”purpose-driven” or more “seeker friendly”, others cried “missional” or “gospel-centered” or “kingdom-minded” or “multi-cultural” or “just” or “simple”. These are all good and beautiful in their own ways and reflective of what we see in Jesus and the early church, but I saw so many pastors that were left spinning (myself included) trying to figure out how to lead, what to shoot for, how to “be” and how to “do” ministry in this quickly changing landscape. But I knew that I needed something more. I needed more than a philosophy of ministry. I needed more than style of worship. I needed more than a strategy for mission. I needed more than “gospel-centered” preaching and programming. I needed more than a right understanding of soteriology, ecclesiology or missiology. I needed God. I needed deepening fellowship with Father, Son and Spirit. I needed friendship with the Father, that my Lord, Jesus, came to make possible by His work on the cross, and the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit (that continually leads, comforts, convicts, and instructs) to help me live into this way of life that Jesus embodied as the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. I needed God. I think we all need this.
Mama Jane’s Secret by Chad Norris cuts through all that noise and speaks this great need that we all have – the need for us to come into deep friendship with Father and to be healed of our orphanhood. The Lord opened my eyes to how I have spent much of my 20+ years in ministry as an orphan, running from one fad to another in an attempt secure my place and value. I was an orphan leading an orphanage. Unfortunately, I fear that many churches are orphanages led by orphans. I don’t say that with an ounce of criticism, but with compassion and hope. I now know there’s a different way we can encounter our loving Father who is full of compassion and hope for us. Mama Jane’s Secret points to that way with simplicity and power. The book is a pure gem. It’s funny and accessible. It’s profound and life-changing. I hope and pray that it gets into the hands of as many people as possible and that wherever there is an orphanage, that it would be transformed by Love into a vibrant family of sons and daughters living in deep friendship with our amazing Father.