On the Sunday after the SCOTUS ruling, my pastor at Illuminate Church in Celebration, Florida started off his message with a response. I wasn't sure what he was going to say, but I knew that it would be well thought out, grace filled and built for the future. My pastor is Tim Ingram: Husband, Father, Hero. He isn't the first pastor my church has had. In fact, Illuminate church is not even the first name our church has had. Two men have come before Tim and two church names came before that. I have attended my current church for 10+ years. Let's just say that my first "set down get to know you" meeting with Tim Ingram wasn't pretty. I was a bitter, angry little man, looking for someone to blame for the hurt I had experienced at the hand of men in the church. Tim agreed to meet me at Cracker Barrel. If it didn't go well, at least I had comfort food to soothe my soul. He listened to my story, fielded my complaints and answered my questions. I left that meeting with my explosive emotions defused, because of his compassion, patience and kind heart. My language that day was not becoming of a Christian man. I might have even caused a few sailors to blush. I wasn't concerned about how he received what I had to say that day. But in all honesty, isn't that what hurt does. It sears our conscience and leads us down a path of destruction.
The truth was that I just needed to be heard by a man in the church. I needed to know that someone, anyone still cared that I was in pain. I didn't need him to fix anything for me, I just needed to be acknowledged. Tim showed me the grace and peace of Jesus that day. I left our meeting knowing that Illuminate church would be my church home and that I would follow Tim as my leader.
So many names come to mind when I think of the men at Illuminate Church who have shaped my life as a Christian and as a man. Joe Saragusa, my first pastor in Celebration. He told me that if I had a dream for ministry to the gay community, his dream was 5000 times bigger. Garret Balcitis, a youth pastor who taught me how to lead kids to Jesus. He believed in me when I couldn't do that for myself. Bronson Moore, who loved me through all my many phases and faces. And though he was younger than me, God used his wisdom to mold and shape my leadership. Ed Arnold, our Executive pastor who has stood the test of time, loved me when I was unlovable, and who shares his porch, his life, his family and his house with me every time I have a need. Andre Anderson. Nelson Deskins. Bill Nance. Tears are welling up in my eyes, because the list is endless. God has used these men to restore to me the meaning of father, brother, companion, comrade and friend. There was a point where I looked for men in the gay community to complete me or give my life meaning and purpose. I was always left wanting. With Illuminate Church, God has answered the cry of my heart for a place to belong, to be heard, to matter and a place to heal. The men that God has brought through my little church in the past 10 years have time and time again, been the face of Jesus.
I am taking this opportunity to share the message Tim preached on Sunday through the podcast. At Illuminate church we welcome all types. Men like me who have left homosexuality. Men like me who use colorful language a little more than I should. And men and women, who like me who don't always get it right, but try once agiain each morning with the sunrise. If you live in the Orlando area please join us at 10 a.m. on Sundays at Celebration High School in the auditorium. If you don't live around here and just need a little encouragement, feel free to listen to the podcasts at www.IlluminateChurchFL.com
Here is the link to the message on the Fruit of the Spirit. This message is appropriately, about Love.