I can remember when I was five or six years old asking my parents some of the most important theological questions that have lingered for centuries. Some of the questions were, “Where does God live? What does God do each day (I played my new Atari system on my 13” black & white t.v. Trust me, Pacman was in!)? Does God eat and sleep? How does God take care of everything that happens all at the same time?” Along with many more such questions. Since my parents did not really know how to answer all my questions they figured they should take my sister and I to church soon. Uncoincidentially, a week or two later, two men knocked on our front door to let us know that a new church was started and meeting a few blocks away. Mom took us the next Sunday.
As I think about those early days of going to church and all the things that happened in each worship service I mostly remember 3 things. I remember that each of our pastors were men passionate about the gospel. Every single week they somehow weaved the message of Jesus and the cross into each sermon. Each Sunday Pastor Sam Catoe would leave his other church to rush over to our church in time to preach at the service. Later there was Pastor George Secrist who stirred the church’s emotions and affections for God. I think he cried almost every week as he spoke about the wonderful love that Jesus has for every boy and girl. Following Pastor Secrist was Pastor Mike King. He was our church’s first full-time pastor. I can remember him visiting my parents one weekday evening to talk with me and my sister to see if we were “ready” to be baptized. He wanted to make sure I understood what it meant to repent of my sin believe in Jesus. His question sticks with me until this day, “Why should Jesus let you into heaven?” I wept knowing that I didn’t deserve to go to heaven. Strange isn’t it, that a young boy knows he is guilty for his sinful actions and heart attitudes? Yet, God gave me the understanding that it was not my own works or actions that get me into heaven but that of Jesus. And believing that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin and then rose from the dead that I too could be forgiven and rise from the dead having eternal life (John 3:16). How marvelous!? Well, after Pastor Mike there was Pastor Doug Myers. Until him I did not know that rednecks could be pastors. From him I also learned what it means to truly love God with my whole heart, soul and mind and to have the same compassion for people that Jesus had. He was bold, courageous and fearless in his walk with God. Literally, I am the man of God I am today because of his discipleship invasion into my life.
A second thing that I remember about my early days of church going was the once a month “snack” in church. Typically we did not get out of church until after 12 and like any growing boy I had a growing appetite. And when it came time in the church service that they passed the grape juice cups and bread I really wanted to alleviate my hunger. However, my mom would never let me take of these elements. She said they meant something and until I understood its purpose I had to sit quiet, without taking the “Lord’s Supper.” This too lingered in my heart and mind. I probably cannot count how many times those elements passed me by and how it bugged me that I could not take them. Viewing those elements and hearing the pastor talk about their meaning time after time enlarged my understanding of the cup and bread; and of course about Jesus. It became more than a snack, it became the taste of love and forgiveness understanding the cup and bread represented Jesus’ sacrifice for me. Even today I treasure the opportunity to share in this experience as I continue to grow in understanding the importance of these elements.
A third thing I remember most about going to church is the names Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. It seemed year after year our church always talked about these ladies and people gave money to them. Could we never pay them off or why were they on the church’s payroll if I never saw them around? If you think that is a funny question for only a young child then you may be surprised that even this week an adult asked me, “If I write the check to Lottie Moon will she get it?” All in all, I came to realize Lottie and Annie were both faithful missionaries who lived to share the gospel of Jesus Christ at the cost of personal comfort. The reason our church gave money to Lottie and Annie was so other boys and girls could have some of the similar experiences and opportunities I had to hear the name of Jesus. These mission offerings support thousands of missionaries and ministries around the world so people can know the life-changing love of Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sin. I believe we must continue this legacy in giving to these offerings, otherwise, what is the alternative? Will we not give and go so others may know Jesus? I know I am sure thankful someone gave to the ministry that helped me see Jesus.
Thanks Mom & Dad for ATLEAST those three things I can remember about church and worshiping the Lord Jesus. You set the pattern and rarely compromised and for that I am forever influenced by these three examples.