The first time I met Ben I was wearing a white castle t-shirt and running out of church. Service at the church he leads just let out and I had to jet to work. The 2nd time I met Ben was a few weeks later at Family Christian Stores where I worked. I was in the throes of a church temper tantrum because I had clearly heard God call me to move to Cincinnati and now here I was, almost a year in and I hadn't found a church I loved as much as the one He pulled me out of. It was spring 2005 and I had moved to Cincinnati the previous June. I was working at Family Christian Store, and while I love working there I met a lot of mean pastors. When Ben walked in with his daughter Ellen I started paying attention. I wanted to see how he treated his daughter, how he treated the employees right before the store closed. Not only was he kind he was attentive to the fact that the store was about to close and made sure to get in and out in a timely manner. If you've ever worked in retail, you know how important that is. As I was checking him out I let him know that I went to his church and that was that. I knew that I had found my church in Cincinnati. I had suspected it before, but seeing a glimpse that Ben practiced what he preached really sealed the deal with me.
Now I do know that pastors are just regular people and they have bad days too. I don't want you to think that I expected him to be perfect or flawless. But you can have a bad day and still be kind, or at the very least just don't speak and take it out on others.
4 Corners will have its own post later in the series, but Ben specifically has really influenced and changed the course of my life. Through his sermons yes, but since I've started leading outreach, Washington Project specifically he has really just plainly called out in me things I wasn't even really aware were there. How timely then that his sermon today (6/28) was on building your influence in other people and calling out what God has for them. My prayer is that I can do the same for others, that I'm doing the same for others right now.
Sometimes I get all twisted around in my head and still find myself hearing the voices and words of people that used to tell me that I wasn't really anything. It's something that I really struggle with. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the fear and lack of confidence. I said something about this to him once in a meeting and he said, "You need to just get over that". It was abrupt enough and straight forward enough that it was like a shock to my system. He told me about something that Martin Luther (I think) said and told me to sin boldly. To understand that I can't do these things without Christ and that I'm going to make mistakes but that there's a grace that covers that. (I still feel like I can't adequately say what it is that he said, only that it struck me right in the core.) I trust his heart and the intentions behind what he says and does. Like he spoke about today (6/28) he has built up that respect and trust so he can speak more directly and with more authority than some others to my life. It's not always comfortable, in fact, I've been pretty much living outside my comfort zone for almost a year now, but I know that through all of this God is leading me towards a full life according to his purpose and Ben has been key to helping me along that path.
I love that he speaks as directly as that, challenging all of us at 4C to read the bible ourselves and pray faithfully and fervently. Letting us know that God calls us to do those things so that our life can be as full as He longs for it to be.
The other side of Ben that has influenced me is the way Ben treats his family. Families are hard sometimes but I really admire the way that he speaks to and about his wife and kids. Sometimes I feel surrounded by couples that snip and swipe at each other publicly and it really gets me down. I'm under no impression that Ben and Jill never fight, but it really is a blessing to see a man that honors his family through his actions and words. It does a relationally weary single girl good to see that marriage should be something more than many of the relationships I see around me.
Because of Ben's influence both corporately as the lead pastor of 4C and as my staff person for leading outreach I am being bolder than I ever thought possible and loving every terrifying minute of it.