Some stories we tell often. They define us. They don’t cost a lot, emotionally, because they are easily told. Some stories we tell occasionally. They reveal a great deal about us, and we demonstrate trust by sharing from the deepest, often hardest parts of our journey. And some stories we tell rarely. They are like bearing our souls. We risk a great deal when we tell those stories. This is true for you, for your family, for our church. Today I want to share a story I have only told to a handful of people and never to a large group. I believe this is the story I must tell in order to help our ministry move ahead. My hope is that your heart, mind, and soul will resonate with this story. My fear is… well, I’ll let you figure that out. I was on a spiritual retreat in 1995 called The Walk to Emmaus. Some of you have been. It changed my life in many ways– some of which I’m just now realizing. But there was, in that retreat, a moment I can only describe as a God-given vision. I was on stage with the “pilgrims” (those attending the retreat) in a worship gathering. The rest of the community–scores of people who had been on an Emmaus walk previously– gathered to celebrate Jesus and to celebrate His Bride, the church. Or at least the part of the church that was on that retreat. Like a movie scene, my vision blurred, time slowed, and I saw God’s call on my ministry. My life. It was as if, though I didn’t hear a voice, God was whispering to my soul: “This is what I want you to do: Go to the church and help every person in the room shine their light, lift up their soul, to Me in worship. Fully engaged hearts. Fully focused minds. Full throated singing. All of who they are, pouring themselves out to all of who I Am.” Although it has been more than 20 years since that moment, I can feel the tears watering my cheeks. I can hear the sound of their voices. The burden of that calling still weighs on my chest. Although it has been more than 20 years since that moment, I can feel the tears watering my cheeks. I can hear the sound of their voices. The burden of that calling still weighs on my chest.
I think this is one of the ways God called me to Woodburn. For the first time in my life, when we gathered on those Sunday mornings during my time as interim worship leader, I saw this happening. Every generation. Every pew. Families with heads reared back, singing together. Senior adults with hands lifted to heaven. Teenagers actually moving their lips as they sang. Children with tears on their cheeks. It was as if God whispered again, this time showing me: this is what I made you to do. This is what I called you to do. And this is the place where My vision for your ministry can be fulfilled. And for months and months and months, this was our weekly experience. I remember Vicki Morris telling me one Sunday that after playing “Great I Am” she went into our tech storage room and trembled with spiritual intensity. I remember sitting in the front row after the singing was over, moved to tears by the manifest Presence of the Holy Spirit. This wasn’t the exception; this was the rule. Our church has grown a lot since then. Hundreds of new people are coming. The choir is smaller, but the ministry is bigger. We have more people in tech ministry than ever. We have a whole other service in the Cafe with a band leading them and at least 130 people in there every week. We have younger people involved, more servants in their 20s than in their 50s and 60s. It is a very different day. But I don’t believe it is a different vision. It’s just harder to see it fulfilled. We have to fight for one another. As Pastor Tim reminds us often, our enemy is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. Why bear so much of my soul? My vision? The challenge? Because the only way forward is through relationships. Restored. Refreshed. Refocused. The stakes are high. The glory of God can be mirrored and magnified or muffled and minimized. I am wholly committed to make much of Jesus with you. As Paul put it, I am sold out to, “as far as it depends on me, live at peace with everyone.” I am ALL IN to seeing the vision God gave me in the Chapel of Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church in Reynoldsburg, Ohio in the spring of 1995 come alive in ways we have yet to see. And nothing would mean more–to me, or I believe to our Father–than for you to join me. So if you’d like to sing, play, or help with technology… if you’d like to greet or be an usher… if you’d like to be part of praying strategically for the worship of our church… if you’d like to see that vision fulfilled, I would love to hear from you!