This past week I had the privilege of working on a taping project for Entrusted Hope Ministries. Following an intermission, I walked into the sanctuary to prepare for the next session where ladies from my hometown welcomed me. Hugs were given and smiles exchanged, as wonderful interchanges began to take place. I was overjoyed to see those ladies!
As I walked away to start the new session, floods of memories began to resurface of an era in my life where individuals from my home church made a great impact on me—periods where I was both discipled and taught life-changing lessons I will never forget. As the weekend continued, so did those memories, yet not without a heart of gratitude toward my home church!
Oftentimes we become so busy in life that we forget to remember those individuals, and even those places of worship that had an impact on our lives. Today, I wish to look back, with a heart of thanksgiving toward my home church–a place where I accepted Jesus, a place where God used others to help grow me, a place where I learned valuable lessons, a place I remember most fondly today!
What did I learn from my home church?
I learned how to minister: So much love was in my home church and that love was expressed (not through text messages) but in everyday life, through one-on-one encounters, through home visits, and through fellowships within and outside the church. It was expressed during times of sickness and during times of loss.
–People came to your home, knocked on your door, sat down with you, looked you in the eyes, and had a conversation with you. They did not text you and say, “Let me know if you need me.” They knew you needed them, and they were there. They were truly the hands and feet of Jesus.
–Your presence or your absence mattered: If you missed church or if you were going through a difficult time, people would come to your home, call, and check on you. I can remember if I missed one Sunday, I had scores of people either at my doorstep or calling my home phone. (For those of you who have no clue what I mean by a home phone, it was a phone inside your home—plugged into a wall outlet.)
–People prayed when you asked them to pray—AND— they would call you days later to see how things were going. I heard often, “We are praying for you!”
Point to ponder: Behind closed doors are individuals who are hurting. Behind closed doors are individuals who have never heard about Jesus. Behind closed doors are people just waiting for you and me to knock, to enter, to sit, to visit, to share the love of Jesus. Do not get me wrong. There are times for text messages and they are good, but there are also times when people need us sitting right beside them. We cannot hold a hand through a text.
My Church Encouraged Me to Use my Gifts and Talents: At my home-church, I was always asked to use the gifts and talents God gave me, such as playing the piano, writing Bible studies and a Christmas play, and working with choirs and teaching. I was encouraged in so many ways in these areas of my life.
You were greeted with love: You were rarely greeted without a smile, a hug, or a handshake. The congregation was so friendly and so loving!
I was taught the importance of missions: I remember we had a strong WMU at our church. I had such a love for missions! In looking back, I remember GA’s and WMU and the impact they had on my life. (Thank you, First Baptist Vina, for allowing these wonderful programs.)
I loved my time in Sunday School classes and in Training Union classes. I am thankful for the teachers and individuals who had such an impact during this time. I loved the music ministry of the church—getting to play the piano and working with both adult and youth choirs—so many great memories!
To all churches of all sizes: Never underestimate the impact you are having on a person’s life. To all of you who greet, who teach, who clean the church, who say hello and welcome a newcomer, who preach, who prepare meals, who shake hands, who park cars, who direct traffic, and who minister in every way and through various departments within the church body: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
First Baptist Vina . . . You poured into my life and into the lives of my children. Thank you!
–You were the church where God placed me as a child and as a young adult. (Thank you to my parents for bringing me to you—and thank you, God, for moving their hearts to do so!)
–You were the church that trained me in how to minister—by the way you loved me, reached out to me, prayed for me, and did life with me. Thank you!
–You were the church that brought out those gifts I tried so hard to hide, because I was so fearful. You encouraged me to use those gifts God wanted me to use. Thank you!
Church leadership can learn and grow from many existent leadership training programs today. I have had the privilege of going through so many of these programs, and I will say I have learned from them and think they are great. However, with all honesty, not one of those programs has taught me as much as I learned from my home church, from a group of people who knew how to love well and minister well. Sometimes I think we are missing the basics of ministering to others–where those knocks at a door become life-changing to the one who answers, where those plates of food bring relief to so many who need it, where those home visits turn into healing moments because someone is given the time to talk some things out.
One of my greatest memories were those times of altar calls at my church. I would go forward, bend a knee, and begin to pray. Then, seconds later, I would feel a hand on one side of my shoulder, and another hand on the other side, as I began to hear prayers whispered on my behalf by those who joined me at the altar.
Jesus did life with His disciples. He walked with them. He ate with them. He listened to them. He taught them. He laughed with them. He confronted them in love. He prayed for them. He loved them. Friends, He is calling us to do the same.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”(Matthew 28:19-20).
First Baptist Vina—Thank you for loving me and my children and for all that you taught me in my young life. In addition, First Baptist Dallas, my present church, thank you for loving me, for teaching me, and for equipping me. You are amazing!