End of January. Mid 1980s.
We were about to take another “leap of faith.” We were moving. Again!
This time we were not changing states, or apartments or houses. We were changing churches. We’ve done that a few times over the years, too. Our church attendance records read like a City Church Directory: German Congregational, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, Community, Assemblies of God….and so on and on.
One pastor, many years ago, looking disapprovingly down his nose, informed us, “Church hoppers are beneficial neither to a congregation nor to themselves.”
“Well…don’t tell us! Tell God.”
He’s the one who keeps moving us from place to place; through one training session after another. We’d love to settle in somewhere and just rest quietly in comfort. We can only believe that God knows what He’s doing, and go where he sends us.
This move, however, looked as if it was going to be an easy one. Our destination was a small Presbyterian Church in a Central California farming community about 25 minutes north of home. The Pastor was an old friend of Dick’s and he was excited about what God was doing in our life. He invited us to come to his church and maybe help out if there was a need somewhere.
On February the 27th, my notebook read: “We have set a date for Dick’s first series of evangelistic meetings!”
First series of “Evangelistic Meetings” my eye! Those people were about as near ready for an “Evangelist” as Dick was to be an Evangelist.
Our friend knew his people quite well.
“Um, maybe we better call them “Renewal Meetings” he suggested.
Even that may have been stretching the point. We were about to learn that unless God makes the plans – the best thing to do is forget it!
Between February 27th and April 24th (the date scheduled for our “meetings”) we fought what is referred to in religious circles as “the good fight of faith.” In reality, we “shadow boxed” with every form of FEAR known to man.
Our finances were stretched to the snapping point. Somewhere along the line I scribbled a quote from movie mogul Mike Todd on the index leaf of my journal, “I’ve never been poor. Only broke. Being poor is a frame of mind. Being broke is a temporary situation.” From experience I can tell you, being broke is also an uncomfortable situation, and a very scary one. But somehow, when the bills stacked up at the end of a month much higher than our income and we just knew it was going to be impossible to make it – we made it!
Our marriage was strained. Our family ties were tested. Our jobs were going through a rough patch. And, we were not spiritually mature enough to SEE what was going on.
Somehow we managed to get the em- ‘phasis on the wrong syl-‘lable.
We knew all about “fighting the good fight of faith” and doing “spiritual warfare” for what we wanted. We knew our job was to resist the devil – firm in our faith. We were so firm we completely missed the point.
Apostle Peter wrote, “God himself will establish you, restore you, settle you.” He also mentions something about suffering a little while with the problem. Back in those days we thought Peter meant we had to ‘suffer through’ the battle; tough it out until we finally won out, so to speak.
Please don’t get me wrong here. There is a war going on in the spiritual realm. There is an enemy. The enemy IS seeking souls to devour.
Christ spoke of the “thief” who comes only to steal and kill and destroy, the liar and the father of lies.
Christ also said, “FEAR NOT.”
So…after a couple months of regular Sunday attendance and fellowship we presented our version of a “Renewal Meeting.”
Let me just say here, the results of contriving an invitation to present our rendition of “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” to that small, very comfortable Presbyterian congregation were about what you might expect. It was something like a firecracker thrown into a puddle. It FIZZLED!
But did that dampen our enthusiasm? Only slightly.
On the last evening, when the handful of parishioners who still felt guilty, because of their pastor’s impassioned plea for support, had dwindled to two, we gave it our best shot anyway.
We had started out with a “team.” Two friends with similar ideas on ministry were going to provide the music. Their commitment fizzled even faster than the crowd. By the second evening Dick was playing the piano and I was “song leader.” Now please understand, Dick plays very well, but mostly for his own amazement. And me singing? What a joke! I cannot carry a NOTE, much less a tune.
We were so certain that God wanted us to be serving Him. But in the face of our fizzled out dream, we were forced to reconsider.
What had gone wrong?
Nothing much. We just got the em-‘phasis you know where again. In our excitement to be doing something for our Father, we missed a very important point.
The results of any endeavor, undertaken in our own strength may accomplish a small spark and a little sizzle, but it takes God’s POWER to really make things happen…otherwise the effort is going to turn out to be quite a dud!