Hester Lecture - The Breathing Church

Gregory L. Waybright, Senior Pastor of Lake Avenue Church, Pasadena, CA
Hester Lecture Speaker on March 4, 2010

 “There are two worlds: the world of church, and the world of unbelievers. Today’s pastor bridges the chasm between these two worlds,” Gregory L. Waybright told students, faculty and staff as Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s guest speaker in the Hester Lecture series.

Dr. Waybright is currently senior pastor of Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California. Prior to his position at this 5,000-plus member Southern California church, he was president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois from 1995-2007. Before Trinity, he spent 17 years as a pastor, including serving at the Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church in Illinois.

“As a pastor, I have to stand between the world of the church and that of the unbeliever,” said Waybright, “So the church will be balanced between the need of people who walk into the church with a desire to receive, and the side where people are called to go out and give,” Waybright said. “I like to use the metaphor of a breathing church, inhaling and exhaling. As with all living things, it is vitally important for a church to breathe, to both inhale and exhale.”

Waybright explained that people need to “inhale” in church - to gather together for corporate worship, to hear the Word, to sing and participate in the rituals. He emphasized that after inhaling, church members need to exhale – to evangelize, to minister to the world through models such as social justice, to convey God’s mercy towards the world.

“There are two parts to serving God’s mission,” noted Waybright, referring to 1 Peter 2. “The first part is to declare. Believers must know something about God in order to declare to others. The second part is to live. Unbelievers must see a difference in our personal lives and how we treat people.”

Waybright clarified essential truths about the breathing church. “We are personally responsible to come to Jesus. When we come to Jesus, we become part of the household, part of the family.” He continued to explain that when believers meet together, “We should worship, and that should be the primary thing that happens when we gather. And the primary reason for gathering is to breathe in – to put God at center stage – so we have something of substance to breathe out.” Waybright described the breathing out as a response to who God is, in the form of evangelism, justice, compassion and mercy.

“Just inhaling is spiritually dangerous, and leads to sterility and spiritual death,” he observed. “The comfort of the church is not our goal, as this comfort can cause isolation of believers from the world. The test of our authenticity as Christians is when we leave the house of worship and go out into the world and become Christ-like towards unbelievers.”

“Yes, I see you when you gather at church on Sunday, taking communion, singing songs and praying,” Waybright imagined God speaking. “But I also see how you treat your co-workers on Monday, your attitude when you drive down the street.”

Waybright reminded the seminary students, “When you become pastors, you have a responsibility to say to your congregations, ‘When you gather on Sunday you remember the cross. But on Monday, you’ll be called on to forgive someone, as God has forgiven you. Will we care as God has cared for us?’”

He concluded by urging those that would become pastors, “Breath in the life. Breathe out the hope and compassion, the Good News. Stand between two worlds and bridge the gap.”

The Hester Lectureship on Preaching is in memory of the late Dr. H.I Hester who was a long-time professor of Bible and head of the department of religion at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.

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