I have a lot of heroes. One of them is my wife. Lots of them are in my family. I work with many of them at Midtown. But I need to tell you about one of them tonight, and his name is Allen Tipping.
When I was first introduced to Midtown I heard about this Allen guy. All I knew was that he did a lot of stuff with the homeless, which I thought was awesome, and that he said something mean to Jay about jobs and our “Christian Ministry” degree that made Jay not like him for a while. That was funny. What’s even funnier is that I got my Christian Ministry degree and now I am waiting tables at Olive Garden!
Anyways…I’m too tired for soapboxes tonight. When I got to Columbia and naturally starting hanging out with and learning from Allen since my heart leans toward Community Missions as well, I was simply blown away. I never knew that people like Allen who want to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom through serving others and meeting tangible needs really existed. A pipedream…I thought. But there he was, with years of experience under his belt, doing amazing things to embrace God’s Kingdom in our community. I stood corrected and gained a role model in the same moment. Here are just a few reasons why he is one of my heroes:
1) He is a pioneer. Community Missions, for the most part, sadly doesn’t exist within our over-arching church culture. It just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t have the glory or shock effect that going overseas to a 3rd world country to spread the Gospel does. In some ways it is harder to do because it takes us out of our comfortable pews and throws our butts out into the streets to serve during our “normal” lives, not just when we’re on a short term mission trip. Allen could not just go to any church and get a job as a Community Missions Pastor…it is so overwhelmingly ignored.
2) His heart. Sometimes I have to worry about my heart. I have to ask myself if I really love people, or if I’m just in love with the idea of loving people–if I purely want so-and-so to experience the healing grace of Jesus, or if deep down in the dark places of my soul I just want a good story to tell to all of my pastor friends. But I never have to worry about Allen. When he interacts with people I can see in his eyes that he is filled with genuine love for them. He’s not looking for another reason to show how good we are at loving people at Midtown and how bad other churches suck at it. He just wants people to fall in love with Jesus and for injustice in our world to change, and he does everything he can to make sure they do. He possesses a humility and purity of heart that I desperately desire.
3) He is an incredibly hard-worker. For well over two years now Allen has been a bi-vocational minister, meaning that he has worked a full-time job to pay the bills and been a pastor/elder of a church as well. I had absolutely no idea how hard this would be until I got to do it for a little while. When I think about how hard this is to do and how long Allen has been doing it, the only reasonable thought that comes to my mind is that nothing short of miraculous that there is any life at all left in Allen’s soul. And that is the least I can say. Seriously….a straight up miracle of Jesus. I only did this for seven or eight months, and still wasn’t doing as much Midtown stuff as Allen, and I cried about it like a pouty little girl. I’m serious when I say that it was some of the worst times of my life spiritually because I was so burnt out. Any kind of Sabbath seemed virtually impossible. Work Monday-Friday. Many Saturdays were Community Missions stuff. Then church all day Sunday and start again at 7:30 Monday morning. I got home most Friday nights and just passed out asleep, unable to do anything. And I only had to do it for seven months? What would over two years feel like? I am absolutely dumbfounded by the amount of dedication, discipline, maturity, and work-ethic that flows out of Allen Tipping. Right now I am only working part-time and doing Midtown stuff and it is so much easier that the difference is just immeasurable. Words just fail when I try to express how much respect I have for this man. I count myself extremely blessed to have him as one of my best friends and I hope he continues to rub off on me.
So here’s to Allen Tipping….to his humility, heart for Jesus, dedication and remarkable discipline. May we all strive to be more like Allen as we learn to follow Jesus together.