Jim McDoniel is leaving the building here at Legacy and heading north for the annual Tulsa International Soul Winning Workshop. And I’m envious. I’m jealous.
For the first time in seven years, Carrie-Anne and I won’t be there.
The Tulsa Workshop is a sacred time and place for my wife and me. It’s in Tulsa where, probably for the first time in our adult lives, we experienced corporate worship of God and mutual encouragement of one another with a couple thousand people who all wanted to be there. You know what I mean? A person has to sacrifice to be in Tulsa. Work and school schedules have to be rearranged. Hotels must be booked. Gas and meals must be funded. Nobody goes to Tulsa for four days because they have to. Everybody there is there because they are overflowing with gratitude and praise for the mercy and grace of our Father. They love to be with and around God’s children. They love to worship. They love to sing and pray. They love to be challenged by powerful speakers. They love to learn new things, to gain new insights, to expand their vision of God’s eternal Kingdom.
And that makes for powerful worship.
100% of the people are singing, not just 60%. 100% of the people are smiling, not just 50%. 100% of the brothers and sisters there are actively participating in the prayers and the sermons and the songs and the readings from Scripture. Fully participatory. Completely interactive.
Not one person attends a worship assembly in Tulsa to fulfill some kind of spiritual checklist, to make an appearance and then leave, to put in his or her time. That’s what makes it so different from the worship assemblies in most of our churches. That’s why worship in a place like Tulsa is so encouraging, so uplifting, so meaningful. Everybody’s in! Nobody judges the person next to him because she may worship a little differently. Nobody complains that a prayer went too long. Nobody criticizes the speaker. Nobody sings just the songs he grew up with and folds his arms and shuts his lips during the others. Not one person there expects to be catered to. Nobody’s there expecting everything to be exactly to their tastes. Everybody gathers in Tulsa expecting God to be glorified, themselves to be edified, and for it all to be diverse and different, chaotic and full of surprises, times of both quiet reflection and meditation and joyful shouting to the Lord. That’s why we come back from Tulsa so energized for our Lord and his Kingdom, so on fire for the gospel of salvation in Christ, so excited about God’s people and the partnership we share with the Creator of heaven and earth.
And we’re missing it this year.
With Carrie-Anne back in school full-time, with our three daughters at three different campuses here, with Missions Sunday coming up this week and our second cycle of Small Groups Church beginning in eleven days, we just can’t make it.
I’m going to miss the kick-off dinner at Memorial Drive tonight when we get to share a meal and get caught up with dozens of great friends from Mesquite and Oklahoma Christian. I’m going to miss the hour-and-a-half I normally spend with about 10 other preachers in Terry Rush’s study on Thursday morning. What an encourager! What a great man of God! What an inspiration to a still-new, still-insecure, still-overwhelmed preacher like me. I’m going to miss the singing. Man, the singing! The glimpse of heaven it is to praise our God in song with brothers and sisters from all over the world! I’m going to miss the great speakers. I’m going to miss it all.
But not next year. Next year we’re going to Tulsa. Next year we’re going to plan a huge caravan from Legacy. We’ll all go together. I’ll book the rooms. Go ahead and put it on your calendar. In bright red, non-eraseable, permanent ink!
I’m envious of Jim and everybody else who’s heading to Tulsa today. And I pray God’s richest blessings on this wonderful gathering of his people.