Normally I use this blog to further clarify something I was unable or did not have the time for on Sunday. This past Sunday I had a wonderful experience at another church so I thought that story would be more encouraging to our church and anyone else reading this blog.
About two weeks ago one of my friends and fellow brothers in the faith asked me if I could fill in for him at his church on a Sunday evening. While it was going to be a very busy Sunday, we worked through the logistics and I was able to do it.
This past Sunday I had to preach at our Sunday service, teach the first of a 13 week class, go home, spend some time with the family, go back out and do staff meeting, and then preach that evening. So by the time I came to my friend’s church that evening I was pretty gassed.
I got out of my car, and an elderly woman was getting out of hers at the same time. She gave me what felt like a “death glare”. This gave me pause for a number of reasons. Understand, I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio while dealing with a great deal of race issues & with a grandfather who struggled with racism. As a child, I was part of a traditional Baptist denomination that was formed around slavery & the fact was, I was about to preach at one of those traditional denominations. Toss on top of all that the fact that I am bi-racial, and you can see my immediate thought was she might be upset a “colored boy’ was attending her church.
As I made my way toward her I attempted to be as polite as possible hoping to break a stereotype. She asked, “are you from that church that has started downtown?” I responded, “Yes ma’am.” She said, “did you know I used to work downtown at Elder-Beerman?” I said, “No, ma’am, I did not.” She then proceeded to say, “Yep, I worked there when it was just ‘Elder’, and eventually it merged with ‘Beerman’ and became ‘Elder-Beerman’. My heart always broke for the people who lived down there. I always wondered how so many people could live in a city where it seemed like no one cared. Well I am glad you are down there loving on those people. I would be down with you if it weren’t for my health.” I said, “Thank you ma’am. You are welcome to join us anytime.”
I then went inside, and she decided to re-park her car, because it was not in the lines. I told her I would see her in the service. I had the pleasure of singing for a hymnal, which I had not done for quite some time, but was a way I grew up. Dwelling on the rich Gospel centered lyrics in them was helpful before I was about to preach. The church was full of older saints who had probably been attending that church most of their lives.
The sermon was on why having a plurality of elders is important for the health and life of a local church. I knew in that traditional church that was not necessarily something they were taught or used to. So, of course I was fearful on how it would be received. The younger people always love controversy and stirring the pot a bit. I know this to be true, because I pastor a young church full of young people. Older people, rightfully so, want our younger people to slow down, and think deeply about what they are asking. They want them to think through the consequences of the choices they are making.
As we finished and I was talking to many people afterwards, this same elderly woman came up to me again. She politely waited until the other people were done speaking with me. I turned to her and said, “Yes, sister.” She said, “Pastor John, I am not very healthy. I have almost passed away a few times. But I am thankful God has kept me alive this long so that I could know there is a good gospel preaching church available to the people downtown. I have been praying for that for a long time. Thank you so much for loving and serving those people.” Myself and the other people I was around were almost speechless. I went home and told my wife that story as we were chasing our kids around trying to put them to bed, and both her and I were in TEARS. I told to my assistant today asking him whether I should share this story instead of my regular blog, and he was almost brought to tears. He said, “yes”.
It reminded me that in my young church, full of young people, that we are not laboring in an area that God has left behind. We try to encourage our members to eat, work, play, and live in the city. This elderly woman worked in the city for almost 30 years among the poor. She laid the ground work, and offered up the prayers that God heard and responded to. I sit here today humbled by the fact that God has given me an opportunity to minister in an area where this woman, and many other saints have been praying for. My prayer and desire is our church will have more older saints like this joining us in the work of bringing the Gospel to downtown Dayton. But my prayer is someday we will also be these older saints continuing the work of ministering to the city of Dayton and the world. May God keep us.
Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
J. Pope - The Doxa Dude